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Here we go again

By Staff | May 6, 2015

To the editor:

Shades of the drawbridge-causeway replacement flap of a few years past. Reading the anonymous, sky-is-falling notice of the public hearing about the relocation of Doc Ford’s restaurant took me back to the days when a few well intentioned but totally unrealistic residents of Sanibel thought that they could prevent the replacement of the deteriorating drawbridge and causeway.

Perhaps the use of the same cartoon used in that misguided effort had something to do with it. Their motivation, it seemed to me, was to make it as difficult as possible for the hated day-trippers to access this beautiful island paradise. A petition to prevent the building of the San Carlos flyover was later circulated for the same reason.

Upon first reading of the unofficial, unsigned notice mailed to Sanibel residents, I thought that this sounded like something COTI would do. They had, along with the city of Sanibel, unsuccessfully sued Lee County, costing the taxpayers of Sanibel millions of dollars in legal fees and more millions when Lee County refused to allow the truck toll station to continue on their causeway. How stupid was that? The delay caused by the suits eventually resulted in the failure of the middle span of the causeway and the deaths of perhaps hundreds of birds. The new causeway is higher and wider and has railings that are difficult for birds to sit on. I have observed that bird mortality has markedly decreased since the new causeway opened.

Then I opened the Island Reporter and the author was revealed. I was shocked to see that Charles Sobczak, the renowned and respected author of “Living Sanibel,” was responsible. The obvious and intentional exaggeration in his missile was especially shocking to me because I have been an admirer of him, having spoken to him several times while volunteering as a rover (roving interpreter) at Ding Darling.

Is the new Doc Ford’s really going to be massive skyscraper? Is it going to be built WITHOUT A PERMIT? On Sanibel! Are you kidding me? Or is it that there is no permit because the conditional use application is in process? Is it another, unneeded restaurant? No, it will be the enlarged relocation of a popular, first-class establishment whose owners include a long time public servant (former mayor and present councilman) and an even more renowned author of many books featuring Sanibel. Will traffic be heavier. Perhaps, but the heaviest use of the restaurant will be after the rush hour. I’m sure the city will address this traffic control issue.

The noise issue and its effect on the walkers of the trails in Sanibel Gardens and the Bailey Tract is also gross hyperbole. A week ago I regretfully ended my 16 year home ownership in East Rocks on Durion Court. My home was as close to Doc Ford’s (as the crow flies) than the new restaurant will be to the majority of the hiking trails. The music from Doc Ford’s on weekends and St. Patrick’s Day we would rarely hear, and only if the wind was from the east. And it’s in the evening when only a few of us really crazy birders might be on the trails trying to see owls or Chuck-will’s-widows. The 2.4-acre site is a tiny fraction of the acreage of the adjacent refuge land and, in my opinion, will have a negligible effect on it.

Perhaps the real issue with the renowned author is the “not in my back yard syndrome.” If you didn’t want the vacant land in your neighborhood developed you should have bought it and donated it to the refuge a long time ago. As a successful real estate professional there could not have been any doubt in your mind that this commercially zoned land would be developed. Mellow out and enjoy that you will be able to walk to three or four of Sanibel’s finest restaurants.

Take home message to the reader: Don’t put any money into this effort. It’s a sure loser, just as was the bridge-causeway issue.

Harold E. Johnstone, MD

Sanibel Island