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Fort Myers Yacht Basin residents worried about environmental impact

Posted at 6:57 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 20:09:23-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It's trouble in paradise for residents of the Fort Myers Yacht Basin, as the city council moves forward with development plans for the basin. Dozens of residents are concerned about the environmental impact.

Bill Westberry is one of those residents who sent a letter to the city council, asking the city to assess the environmental risk before making any more moves with development.

A resident of five years, he's what you would call a "liveaboard" - or someone who lives on their boat full time.

“Some people like to work on their yard…us down here, we like to work on our boats,” says Westberry.

Like many of his neighbors, he's worried about his lifestyle being disrupted once the city chooses a contractor to begin redeveloping the basin.

This comes just a few weeks after the council heard five proposals from possible developers on ideas, ranging from restaurants to floating docks.

But for Bill, that's the least of his worries with the looming development.

“You’re gonna kick up, most likely, a lot of toxins - lead, benzene, that’s at the bottom of the yacht basin. The yacht basin’s been here for almost a hundred years, and that’s going to drift downstream,” explains Westberry, moving downstream and right into the territory of manatees, fish, and other Southwest Florida wildlife.

Now, he's asking the city for an environmental risk assessment before contracting with a developer.

“They’ve got to slow this construction development down because it’s really affecting the water quality - and that’s why people come to Florida,” he says.

Dr. Edwin Everham is an ecology and environmental studies professor with Florida Gulf Coast University, who offered this perspective:

“There can be some situations where redevelopment lifts the environmental condition. Because if something is going to be done to the marina in the next decade, it will be held to a standard that didn’t exist eighty years ago. So it isn’t necessarily bad,” says Dr. Everham.

But even with the basin being held to new standards that didn't exist when it was first built, Westberry is convinced that a lot of the damage is already done.

“I had a meeting with one of the councilmen yesterday and he assured me that he’s going to push to get the city to test the bottom, pull core samples for toxins before construction starts,” explains Westberry.

He's another resident worried about the future of the piece of paradise that he calls home.

“It’s not the cheapest living arrangement, but the lifestyle makes up for it.”

Westberry says that he'll be at an upcoming Fort Myers City Council meeting on May 16th, when the council is expected to bring the visions of two potential contractors to the community to get feedback and help shape the actual plan that's negotiated with the contractor that the city selects.