Controversy surrounding First Street Apartments in downtown Fort Myers being built on a possible Native American burial site has been ongoing for almost a year.
City leaders said Monday no evidence has been found to halt construction on the site, located at the corner of Fowler, First and Second streets.
“I want to make sure that from the city manager standpoint, from the city attorney’s office, that this city has done everything it needs to do so that we’re not disturbing anything that may be historical,” said Council member Johnny Streets.
In September 2021, the developer of the site, Zimmer Development, conducted a geophysical investigation of the site with GeoView, a geophysical company specializing in borehole geophysics, bathymetric profiling, ground penetrating radar and utility locating. The investigation utilized ground penetrating radar to determine the presence and locations of subsurface features or artifacts associated with suspected graves.
Findings include the presence of one 10-by-17-foot anomaly in the center of the site, but the final report stated it didn’t appear to be indicative of individual gravesites. The anomaly could be indicative of an area of buried debris, former foundation or other areas of excavation.
Several other isolated shallow hyperbolic reflections were scattered across the site, many of which were located where limestone boulders were at or near ground surface. The reflections didn’t extend to adjacent lines as would be expected from gravesites of other larger buried features, but are suspected to be associated with areas of shallow limestone, the final report stated.
The attorney representing the developer said they haven’t violated any Florida statute or city code and haven’t found any remains on the site so far.
Mayor Kevin Anderson asked the attorney, Bruce Strayhorn, what the actions of the developer would be if they were to unearth remains on the site.
“Pursuant to Florida statute, they stop immediately,” Strayhorn said. “Contact the state of Florida, they connect with the chief archaeologist of the state and examine what’s there.”
The city received a letter from the state dated June 8 stating a historical marker located at the corner of Fowler Street and Second Street, within the site, had been removed, requesting its replacement immediately.
Strayhorn said if there was ever a monument on the site, they were not aware.
City attorney Grant Alley is working with city staff to determine if there was ever a monument there, which will be replaced if it’s discovered that one existed previously.
Since the excavation on the project already is complete, the unearthing of anything on the site is now unlikely.
“We know what we’re supposed to do, and the developer knows what they’re supposed to do if they do encounter human remains,” Alley said. “Thus far, they have not.”