FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Fort Myers Beach is in the midst of a different look, from the Margaritaville Resort on Estero Boulevard to the work on Bayside Park.
With this growth, also much larger fees could be coming to the island for the businesses and activities that make Fort Myers Beach so well-known.
Tomorrow night, the Town Council will be reviewing the proposed increases during the first budget hearing of the 2023 fiscal year tomorrow night.
The Council is considering raising fees within that budget for many local businesses including $350 an hour for a beach wedding, to paying $100 a day to host the farmers market.
“It’s unreal,” says Forrest Critser with Fort Myers Beach Baptist Church. The church hosts farmers' markets from October to May, every Wednesday and Friday. Right now, the permit fee is $100 for the first day and then one dollar for each additional day.
The proposed fee would be $100 a day for every day for the market.
Instead of about $140 a year in fees, this would add up to thousands of dollars in fees.
“I was so surprised. I could not figure out where they got this number from," says Linda Miller, an organizer with the farmers market.
The proposed increase is why she's written the Town Council, asking to reclassify permit fees for the farmers market and not to be lumped in with larger events held on the beach.
Waverunner vendors on the beach tell Fox 4 that they've already seen costs increase by as much as 30 percent due to supply chain costs, higher insurance, and labor costs. Now the annual cost for personal watercraft would increase from $170 to $1200, a 7-times increase.
For recurring events, the permit fee would increase from $100 on the first day, and $1 every day after, to $100 a day, per event.
That's thousands of dollars more in costs for the farmer's market that runs from October to May.
A new hourly beach wedding fee of $350 would be new, and a new beach furniture vendor permits also go up to $1200 dollars from $250 for a new license, and that same $1200 a year just to renew it.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach gave this written response to Fox 4 when asked more about it:
“Town staff have made recommendations in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget to overcome the challenges of inflation (estimated to be at least 10% in 2022.) These recommendations are town-wide, and many relate to fees that have not been raised in several years. These recommendations may or may not be adopted by Town Council.”
State law requires two public hearings on budget proposals and the first one is set for tomorrow night starting at 5PM at Town Hall. It is open to the public.