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Planned business gets icy reception

LACPP unhappy with new franchise

June 20, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Katie Szynal, store manager for Twice The Ice, a franchised business unit out of Jacksonville, will be placed on the parking lot north of the Circle K Store on Homestead Rd. Szynal presented the plan to the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. (LACPP) at its June meeting last Wednesday night.

The large structure which will offer ice for sale to customers, at half the price of competitors, Szynal said, will be delivered to the site on a long tractor trailer. It is an already built structure that is 29 feet long and 8.5 feet wide and 14 feet high, including its roof or cover.

She said the ice producing unit would be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day and customers can fill bags or ice chests and pay on the spot by inserting money into the machine's pay station. Nobody will be on hand to work at the unit.

Article Photos

A rendering showing what the new Twice The Ice business will look like on the Beals’ Outlet parking lot. The business will be on the north side adjacent to a convenience store and will be landscaped, according to its owner.

But Szynal's plan caught the ire of some of the members of the ECWCD.

Tami Baker, the treasurer of the LACPP was the first to object after listening to Szyunal's presentation.

"The location is wrong. It's in the center of our downtown planned development," she said. "It doesn't fit in to our plans."

Edd Weiner, chairman of the LACPP was equally distraught and told Szynal that the business "was not acceptable."

"It's not compatible with our mixed use plans for Homestead Rd.," Weiner said.

Frank Larosa said he was familiar with such ice producing businesses because of his travels. He noted that he has seen them used by fishermen and others.

Szynal said her firm, which has several others situated in Florida, including other sites in Lee County, tried to answer the questions thrown to her.

Also objecting was Steve Conti who said ice was available at several stores and markets in Lehigh and that such an additional business wasn't needed. We should tell the county we don't want it," Conti said.

Finally, Kathie Ebaugh, the county planner who helped the planning panel in its work to establish a community plan, approached the group and told them that Katie Szynal's firm meets all the requirements of zoning, and that the county cannot refuse it to be placed in Lehigh.

"She is here tonight really as a courtesy call to show you all what Twice The Ice is planning in Lehigh. You can't tell her you don't want the business here. It meets all the county's requirements. You can make helpful suggestions if you would like," Ebaugh said.

Before Ebaugh spoke up, the LACPP members were discussing ways to hide the ice business. Chairman Weiner said it could be hidden with lots of landscaping.

Ebaugh said that in the future it can be relocated "so you all should work with her to make it work." Over time when changes are made on Homestead Rd., the business can be moved," Ebaugh said.

However, some on the panel said they understood that the ice business should be visible to the public if it is to succeed.

LACPP member Steve Conti said the people of Lehigh for which the LACPP represents, should be able to tell the county that the structure is not wanted in Lehigh. Weiner reminded Conti that the LACPP doesn't have the power to reject a business, but can make suggestions about projects.

LACPP member Mohamid Yassin said he would like to see landscaping around the structure. Others on the board, including Weiner, agreed.

Twice the ice business manager Katie Szynal said landscaping would not be a problem, that she would make sure it is landscaped to be attractive. With that promise, the board voted 5-3 to make the recommendation for landscaping.

Szynal later said the shopping center had been recently purchased by Eric Howell of Bradenton, Fla. She said her firm is leasing a part of the center's parking lot and the unit can be located on the site facing Homestead Rd. within two months.

County Planner Kathie Ebaugh suggested that the LACPP invite the new owner of the shopping center to visit during one of the panel's meeting.

"It is an excellent opportunity to tell him what you are doing here in Lehigh," she said.

Meanwhile, a revised plan for a proposed Optimum Fitness Center structure on Fifth Street was approved by the LACPP. Its owner Dr. Mickey Jones, was at the meeting but the presentation was made by Jerry Murphy. Also accepted by the LACPP was a project at 508 Owen Ave. to add a new warehouse to the site.

The next LACPP meeting is Wednesday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the community conference room at the Lee County Sheriff's Bravo Station. To attend the meeting, enter from the back of the building.



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