The Estero Community Plan
In Quick Summary
What’s in this for you?
“Quality of Life” has a different meaning for everyone. But everyone understands the dollars and cents of property values and how much values depend on location. Estero is a prime location. But it’s growing so fast that most residents can’t keep up with the developments that are rapidly changing our community.
These few minutes’ worth of documented facts about Estero’s past, present and future illustrate how The Estero Community Plan coordinates all three eras - and protects your real estate investment.
Estero adds 80 residents - about 38 new homes - every week. That’s what this is all about.
Estero Is Spanish for Estuary - where a river joins a sea. It’s an apt name. The Estero River runs through both our community’s geography and its history. Today the Estero River is a five-mile recreational waterway that winds westward between Corkscrew Road and Broadway to the estuary at
Koreshan State Park on Estero Bay leading to the Gulf of Mexico. But the river’s historical importance to Estero dates back some
600 years. Ponce deLeon discovered it in 1513 when Mound Key,
a half-mile from the estuary in Estero Bay, was the capital of the
Calusa Indian nation. The Calusa then numbered 50,000 and
archeologists tell us that they first settled here over 2,000 years
ago. Mound Key was also the site of the first Jesuit mission in North America.
Estero’s first homesteader arrived in 1882.
He was followed by others who farmed citrus along the river and then used the waterway to ship harvests north via the gulf. (Florida’s first “naval” oranges?)
Estero’s most noted pioneers, the Koreshan commune from Chicago, settled beside the Estero River in 1884. But the group’s growth was doomed - its leaders practiced celibacy. Their practice made perfect. Their settlement area is today’s Koreshan State Historic Site & Park on the northwest corner of Highway 41 at Corkscrew Road. The park’s pristine riverside beauty and restored historic buildings reward visitors with silent, spectacular displays of nature and Estero’s history.
Two miles west of Koreshan State Historic Site & Park on the river you’ll find Koreshan State Park at the estuary on Estero Bay. Yes, we have two state parklands in Estero with nearly identical names. Read on and you’ll see that the Estero Community Plan recognizes both the appearance and history of the river region with provisions to perpetuate the character, resources and habitat of this unique area.
Estero was a major citrus producing
area for 50 years beginning in 1900 but the industry moved out and
our land was given over to grazing. During this period Ft Myers and
Naples began to grow - the former to the south and the latter to the
north. Being equidistant from both, Estero was the last area between
the two to experience growth. Now it's considered the epicenter of
growth in southwest Florida with a current population of 30,000
that's growing at the rate of 30 new homes every week.
Good Question! And it puzzles a lot of residents. Estero is an unincorporated area of Lee County with no municipal boundaries of its own. Yet, the Community Plan requires a specific, defined area. So here are the populated area borders of the Estero Core Community defined in the plan - with a strong assist from the boundaries of the Estero Fire District.
Estero’s Core Community encompasses 26 square miles - and 13 golf courses.
- West: The west boundary of the Estero Core Community is Estero Bay.
East: The Core Community extends to the eastern boundary of The Habitat on Corkscrew Road, three and a half miles east of I-75.
North: The Estero Core Community’s northern boundary extends west from Estero Bay to include Riverwoods Plantation and Breckenridge. The line hops Highway 41 to include The Vines and Estero Golf Estates. It then turns a half-mile south to Koreshan Boulevard and continues straight east. It jumps I-75 to include Teco Arena and Grandezza and continues east to The Habitat.
South: The Estero Core Community is bounded on the south by the Bonita Springs city line which divides
Pelican Landing. It jumps Highway 41 at the Bonita Springs city limits sign and extends east along the south border of The
Brooks on Bonita Bill Street to I-75. Across I-75 it turns north two miles to the southern border of Stoneybrook and continues to the eastern border of The Habitat.
Estero’s Core Community consists of many communities:
When the Mailing Address says Bonita Springs...
The Brooks’ mailing address is Bonita Springs, 34135, but The Brooks is totally inside Estero’s Core Community. Pelican Landing’s mailing address is Bonita Springs, 34134, but its north sections are inside Estero’s Core Community - north of the Bonita Springs city limits sign on US 41. Why?
When The Brooks and Pelican Landing were first planned, the US Postal Service assigned them to the new postal facility in Bonita Springs - not Estero’s small post office. As a result, when it comes to Estero’s boundaries and who really lives here, some zip codes just don’t mean zip.
Florida law requires that all counties and municipalities have a documented Comprehensive Plan to control growth. It’s a set of conceptual guidelines that a county’s land development laws seek to protect through enactment and enforcement. Lee County’s Comprehensive Plan, enacted in 1989, is known simply as “The Lee Plan.”
Florida counties also have a Land Development Code, (LDC), of enforceable laws that specify what residential and commercial developers can and can’t do with their properties to satisfy the provisions of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. It’s a simple association to remember: LDC = Law.
A Community Plan is a set of amendments to a county’s Comprehensive Plan and/or LDC specific to a designated area within that county.
It’s A Set of Amendments to both the Lee Plan and the Lee County LDC, all specific to Estero.
This sounds simple enough, but when it’s completed the Estero Community Plan will run hundreds of pages. Remember, a community plan should be comprehensive to cover all aspects of growth. And Estero has been identified in the press as, “The epicenter of growth in southwest Florida.”
In January Estero’s Permanent Resident population will be 14,400 - up 51% since April, 2000.
Our seasonal (“snowbird”) resident population will be 8,500 - another 51% jump in 21 months.
There will be nearly 23,000 Esteroans here next January! (And all on Highway 41 at the same time.)
Estero’s Community Plan was citizen initiated - without spending a penny of taxpayer money. It was launched in 1999 by the Estero Civic Association, the Estero Chamber of Commerce and the Estero Concerned Citizens Organization, (ECCO). These three volunteer groups combined efforts and established the six-member Estero Community Plan Panel which supervises the effort with the professional support of Fort Myers planning firm, Vanesse/Daylor.
The process involves three steps or “phases”. And each phase depends heavily on public comment through workshops, committee meetings and communications to panel members. In their simplest terms:
Phase I is directed to the Lee Plan to address immediate concerns.
Phase II will apply the specifics of Phase I to the Lee County LDC.
Phase III will focus back on the Lee Plan and future land uses.
Phase I foresees an Estero of residential, public and commercial areas that reflect the beauty found in its gated communities, neighborhoods and natural sites - free of commercial clutter, patchwork strip malls, glaring signs and billboard “alleys”. Its major objectives:
Enhance landscaping along roadway corridors
Plan greater buffering and shading of parking areas
Establish architectural and signage standards
Offer incentives to bring older projects into compliance
Establish one or more town commons for public services and recreation
Create a traffic safety management plan including walkways and bikeways on US Hwy 41
Evaluate of Estero’s historic sites for designation as protected areas
Commercial Land Uses
Create a unified visual quality to landscaping, architecture and signage
Prohibit “detrimental uses” - stand-alone bars and outdoor retail displays over one acre
Encourage “mixed use” developments along Corkscrew Road
Discourage new retail uses on Three Oaks Parkway outside intersection areas
Plan off-street pedestrian and traffic connections between commercial developments
Residential Land Uses
Enhance buffers between adjacent residential developments and natural resources
Build greater buffering between adjacent residential and solely commercial developments
Encourage affordable housing near FGCU between Three Oaks Parkway and I-75
Create large buffers between residential developments and traditional neighborhoods
Phase I also covers Natural Resources, Public Participation and Community Facilities. It required 18 months of volunteer and professional effort, all supported by public workshops and comment.
Phase I is almost complete. It was reviewed by the Board of County Commissioners in August and approved to be sent to the Florida State Department of Community Affairs for review and comment. When state concerns are addressed it will likely be adopted by the county as part of The Lee Plan.
Estero already benefits from Phase I provisions to better inform residents of commercial development applications and significant restrictions to Lee county’s “Bubble Plan” that allowed commercial developers to submit a long list of possible uses for their properties with little or no regard to nearby residential areas.
Today we’re beginning Phase II. Phase II puts teeth into the vision of Phase I, and makes its provisions Lee County LDC law. Estero residents are urged to help the Community Plan Panel with specific ideas that define and enforce all the good things envisioned in Phase I.
The Estero Community Plan
Panel meets regularly to make the Community Plan a reality. Your interest and involvement is needed to continue this grass roots effort.
Everything accomplished in Phases I and II will be evaluated and extended into the Lee Plan’s Future Land Use Map. That means every opinion and idea expressed today can make a long lasting impression on our community’s future.
In 1904 Koreshan founder Cyrus Teed foresaw Estero as,
“The Greatest Community in the World!”
PUBLISHED BY THE ESTERO CONCERNED CITIZENS ORGANIZATION, (ECCO) COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED: JPRAMSBURG@HOTMAIL.COM
Estero Historical Society has a brief history of Estero on their web site, as well as information about their efforts to teach and preserve the history of Estero, Florida.