"The Estero Community Plan is Being Renewed and Updated”
It has been nine years since the Board of County Commissioners approved the Estero Community Plan. Between 2002 and 2005 the County Board approved
three major changes in the Land Development Code provisions applicable exclusively to Estero. In addition to providing Estero with the highest
appearance standards of any southwest Florida community, these documents also require all Estero developers to conduct a meeting in the community
prior to filing an application for zoning a property and later prior to filing an application for a “Development Order”. Development Orders are sought
when a project has been fully designed for construction as part of a development.
As a result of these Board actions the community established the Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP) to conduct the zoning meetings within the
community, to forward its recommendations to the County and to develop all new community planning proposals. In addition the Estero Design Review
Committee (EDRC) was established to sponsor meetings to review each Development Order application and report on the meeting to Lee County community
The high quality development that has taken place during this period is directly the result of these efforts.
Much has changed in Estero during the last nine years….
- Our population has tripled
- About 4 million square feet of retail/commercial space has been constructed
- Another 7 million square feet of retail/commercial space has been zoned for high quality development….much of it has been cleared and is
ready for development
The existing community plan focused almost exclusively upon our commercial corridors on US 41 and Corkscrew Road because development of these areas
was approaching very rapidly.
Older pre-existing developments and residential areas were not seriously reviewed. They deserve further consideration at this time.
Over the years the ECPP and the EDRC have found some of the Community Plan and LDC provisions to be inadequate or interpreted in unexpected ways.
These issues should be considered and remedied during this review.
The economic slowdown presents the ECPP and the community with an outstanding opportunity to reevaluate and update the Community Plan and the Land
Development Code language specific to Estero.
This process will take about a year to complete. The first step is the November 13, 2010 Community Planning Workshop. The entire amendment process
will be managed by the ECPP. They, along with the EDRC, will hold many public meetings at the Estero Community Park to discuss the priority changes
identified by the community.
The 2002 Community Plan
Now Governs Estero’s Development
codes and regulations for buildings in the Estero, Florida area maintain Estero's distinctive Mediterranean look and feel, as well as keeping pedestrians
and customers safe and comfortable with appropriate implementation of
landscaping and design.
The Look of Estero
Estero's Community Plan calls for design elements such as
barrel tile roofs, articulated facades, building ornamentation, embellished
windows, columned porches, and parking lots placed in the rear of the property.
Compare a typical Wal-mart "big box" design, versus a design as informed by
the Estero Community Plan...
Specific types, arrangements, and heights of plants are used in the code to
soften hardscapes, disguise unpleasant views, and buffer parking areas, serving
pedestrians and vehicles alike. By placing the landscaped buildings along the
road, and keeping the parking areas inside the parcel, the drive-by emphasis is
on the beautiful architecture and business identity, not the parking lot.
The use of monument signage, and the limits placed upon pole signs, lighted
signs, and temporary signage, keeps the look and feel of Estero, Florida
distinctive and elegant. Compare the difference a simple change can make...
Our highways and major roadways are the most frequently seen and used
elements of our community, for residents and visitors alike. Landscaping efforts
along our roadways not only keep Estero beautiful, but promote driver and
pedestrian safety, and encourage native wildlife and plant life to flourish
amidst growing development.
Implementing the Estero Community Plan
(March 2005 EDR)
Three years ago the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved
the Estero Community Plan. The primary thrust of the plan was
established after many hearings and input from hundreds of Estero
residents. The central focus that emerged from this process:
Make Estero’s commercial corridors as beautiful
as the surrounding residential communities,
Cause persons traveling through Estero to know
that it is a unique and outstanding place, and
Achieve maximum compatibility between adjacent
commercial and residential uses.
At the time Estero had several advantages that made
these realistic goals. They were:
Only about 10% of the 2,000 acres of commercial
land along Corkscrew Road and US 41
was developed at that time so there was no strong opposition from
existing merchants to the adoption of high development standards for
Most of this land consisted of large parcels that
could be developed as planned developments with appropriate
buffering from any neighboring residential communities; space for
attractive landscaping along the roadway; appearance standards that
would apply to all the projects within the property; fewer parcels
with less desirable uses like convenience stores, gas stations and
fast food restaurants; less and more attractive signage to name a
A County government that strongly supported the
aspirations of the Estero community. The County not only approved
the Community Plan but has also approved two packages of “unique to
Estero” changes in the County’s Land Development Code (LDC), the
document that makes legally binding what developers can and cannot
do in Estero. A third package of changes is now working it way
through the County’s approval process.
A group of high quality developers who recognize
that consistently high standards in a community allows the higher
costs of development to be more than offset by higher land values
and lease rates.
A relatively large core of talented and committed
volunteers who believed strongly in the benefits the community will
derive from effectively implementing a community plan.
The biggest challenge that the Community Plan and the associated
planners have had to overcome was the existing “bubble plan” zoning on
many of Estero’s commercial sites. On these properties the property
owners have the legal right to choose from as many as 100 uses, many of
them detrimental to the community, as they or their land purchasers
develop the property. The “uniquely Estero LDC changes” sometimes
diminish the practicality of some of these uses but in all cases they
cause them to be more attractive, have less impact on their neighbors in
terms of distance, height, noise, light and smell and be better buffered
from the roadway.
Probably the most important of the many provisions of the Community
Plan is the requirement that all developers seeking to rezone a property
must hold a community meeting in Estero before filing the application
for rezoning. As a result of this requirement the
Planning Panel (ECPP) has sponsored over 60 meetings reviewing far more
developments providing over 3,000 Estero residents the opportunity to
express their concerns and make suggestions about those developments
early in the approval process, when they are easier and less costly to
After that meeting the developers must file a report with Lee County
specifying all the issues that were raised at the meeting and how they
plan to address them. When there are unresolved issues the developers
work with the ECPP, the residents of the affected communities and county
zoning staff to add conditions to the zoning that address the concerns
of the community. They are anxious to do this because they know that the
residents of the affected communities will testify about those unmet
concerns at the required Public Hearing conducted by a Lee County
Hearing Examiner and by the BOCC, who make the final zoning decision.
Estero is the only community in Southwest Florida with this level of
community input on zoning decisions and it is greatly improving the
quality and compatibility of our commercial developments.
Development Order Meetings
Additionally, the first round of Land Development Code changes made
by the BOCC established a “uniquely Estero” requirement that a community
meeting be held in Estero before a Development Order can be filed with
the County. Usually when property is zoned the specific uses and users
are not known so no detailed development plan can be prepared. The LDC
requires that developers must later obtain County staff approval of a
Development Order for each parcel within their development when the user
has a detailed development plan for the site..
The Estero Design Review Committee (EDRC) sponsors the
meeting on each Development Order applied for in the
Planning Area. The EDRC, which consists of architects, landscape
architects, engineers, developers and Estero citizens, has reviewed more
than 50 major commercial projects with tremendous impact on the
appearance and layout of those projects. Once again these are meetings
with ample opportunity for residents to raise concerns and make
suggestions. County staff pays close attention to the concerns and
suggestions that these meetings produce.