On August 18th
the BOCC approved the sale of 3.1 acres of the former Boomer property
(southwest corner of US 41 and Broadway), now owned by the County, to FDOT
for the installation of a detention pond necessary for water run-off from
the expanded US 41. Acquiring this pond has held up construction of the
widening of US 41 between
and San CarlosPark for almost two years. Completion of
this transaction will permit US 41 widening to start as soon as funding
On August 21st
the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved an
amendment to the 2010-2014 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that
provides for a $1.3 million Cape Coral intersection improvement ahead of the
$26 million needed to widen US 41 from Corkscrew Road to San Carlos
Boulevard starting in the fall of 2010. FDOT officials have informed us that
they expect the contract for the widening of this segment of US 41 to be bid
one year from now, in August 2010.
Once the widening of US
41 gets underway Wal-Mart is authorized by its zoning to commence
construction of its store on the northeast corner of
Estero Parkway and US 41.
In early August the
temporary traffic signal at the corner of Estero Parkway and US 41 began its test period.
Ten days later it commenced full time operation. This is considerably sooner
than promised by Lee County DOT several months ago. Our thanks to Harry
Campbell, Lee County’s Traffic Engineer, and all Lee County DOT and FDOT
staff who worked so hard to complete this project prior to the opening of
the Estero Flyover, now estimated for November.
Proposed Changes in the Estero
On August 26th
several representatives of Wal-Mart met with members of the Estero Community
Planning Panel (ECPP), the Estero Council of Community Leaders and residents
of The Vines and Breckenridge to discuss their proposed plans for rezoning
their property on the northeast corner of US 41 and Estero Parkway. The major elements in
their proposal would:
Reduce the size of
the Wal-Mart store by about 40,000 square feet
Add three outlots
along US 41 for stores that would offset the reduced size of the
Substitute a new
standard Wal-Mart design for their store for the existing “Estero”
unique design that was negotiated by the community over a period of two
years in 2003 and 2004, and
“super-concurrency” provision in the existing zoning that requires
construction of the store to begin only after the widening of US 41 in
this area has been finally approved and funded.
On Friday, September 25th
the combined Estero community leadership will meet in a workshop with the
Mayor and Council members of the
City of Bonita Springs. Estero will be
represented by leaders from the following organizations: the Estero Council
of Community Leaders (ECCL); the Estero Civic Association (ECA) and the
Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP).
This will be the sixth
in a series of periodic meetings between these two south LeeCounty
communities to discuss issues of common concern. The meeting is scheduled
for 9 a. m. to in
the Bonita Springs City Council Chambers and is open to the public.
Council of Community Leaders (ECCL)
Forms County Manager Selection Committee
On August 21st
the ECCL voted to form a County Manager Selection Committee to monitor the
County’s efforts to recruit a new
CountyManager to replace
departed Manager Don Stillwell. John Goodrich of Pelican Sound will chair
Nearly 80 candidates
have applied for the position. The County’s consultant has screened this
list and narrowed it down to 12 preferred candidates that they have
recommended to the BOCC for their consideration. On August 31st
the Consultant will review these candidates with the BOCC. On the following
day, September 1st the BOCC will select the candidates that the
consultants should interview for their final recommendations.
On September 10th
the BOCC will conduct one on one interviews of each of the finalists. On the
following day the BOCC will hold a special Board meeting to interview the
final candidates and select the one with whom they want to negotiate a
contract. Finally the BOCC will finalize hiring the new manager on September
On June 21st
the ECCL sent a letter to the
CountyCommissioners and Karen
Hawes, Interim County Manager, stating in part:
“The selection of a County Manager is of the utmost
importance to ensure that Lee County meets the challenges of creating and
strategic plan for sustainable development incorporating land use policies
that reduce traffic congestion, expand mass transit and discourage urban
sprawl. The selected Manager needs to be knowledgeable about and have
experience with the major issues confronting
LeeCounty including growth
management; water supply preservation; water quality enhancement; smart
growth; urban redevelopment; natural resource protection; habitat and
September Is Big Month for the DR/GR
On August 21st
Mary Gibbs, Lee County Director of Community Development, Paul O’Connor, Lee
County Director of Planning and Nicole Ryan of the Conservancy of Southwest
Florida discussed the status and forthcoming schedule for BOCC consideration
of the proposed Comprehensive (Comp) Plan changes for the DR/GR with the
members of the ECCL. Nicole Ryan used an outstanding Power Point
presentation to summarize the staff’s proposed plans, as approved by the
County Land Planning Agency, for the DR/GR. It can be found on the Estero
community website at
presentation the ECCL members discussed the outstanding issues with the LeeCounty
staff leaders. Ms. Gibbs indicated that the BOCC would conduct its
hearing on the DR/GR Comp Plan on either September 23rd or 24th.
At the Hearing staff and their consultants will make a presentation followed
by an opportunity for public input. They expect that at this or a subsequent
meeting the BOCC will vote to transmit the Comp Plan as amended to the State
Department of Community Affairs (DCA). If all the various plans included in
this round of Comp Plan changes are approved in September they expect to
conclude their discussions with DCA by January 2010. The entire process
leading up to State approval is expected to be completed by the summer of
2010, at which time it could be challenged in the courts by opponents of the
plan. We urge everyone concerned about our future water supply and the
impact that widespread mining in the DR/GR will have on the future viability
of our community to plan to attend the BOCC hearing on the 23rd
of 24th of September…no vote is more vital to the long run
livability of Estero and south Lee County.
On May 20thLeeCounty
released the “Proposed Lee Plan Amendments for SoutheastLeeCounty…Planning for the
Density Reduction/ Groundwater Resource Area (DR/GR)” and posted it on their
http://www3.leegov.com/dcd/CommunityPlans/SELC_DRGR/CPA2008-06/Proposed-Lee-Plan-Amendments-for-Southeast-Lee-County_May2009.pdf . This 72 page document details Dover Kohl & Partners, the CountyDR/GR
planning consultants, recommendations for updating the County’s
Comprehensive Plan for the DR/GR. This extensive document, if approved by
the BOCC and the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA), would
provide the legal framework for concentrating mining in the Alico Road
industrial corridor; DR/GR locations where residential development should be
clustered; locations where agriculture should be encouraged and where and
how the natural resources and ecology of the DR/GR should be preserved.
22nd Land Planning Agency (LPA) Meeting
On June 15thLee
staff released their “Staff Analysis and Recommendation” in response to the
Dover Kohl Comprehensive Plan recommendations. This analysis was presented
to the LPA at their June 22nd meeting. To review the Staff
Analysis please click the following link…
This presentation was
followed by about four hours of public input nearly equally divided between
landowner and mining representatives and comments from LeeCounty
residents, civic groups and environmental and growth management
organizations. Sixteen persons testified in support of the Dover Kohl/staff recommendations. Once again
The Conservancy, the Brooks Concerned Citizens, the ECCL, the Corkscrew
Rural Community and other groups prepared detailed analysis and
recommendations generally in support of the Dover Kohl and County staff
recommended Plan Changes. You may review this analysis by clicking the
following link …
July 27th Land Planning Agency (LPA)
On July 17th
once again the LPA heard many hours of testimony from supporters and
opponents of the staff proposed DR/GR recommendations. After listening to
all the testimony and reviewing the new staff report that responded to many
of the concerns raised at the prior to Hearings the LPA vote 4 to2 with one
abstention in favor of the staff recommendations with minor amendments.
On August 19th
the hearing was loaded with controversy surrounding last minute changes by
the applicant - RCH Mine. This has resulted in substantial changes to the
hearing schedule going forward.
Since the applicant had
previously concluded their testimony on the 5th day of the
hearing in early June, today was scheduled to begin with presentations by
county staff. However, the applicant asked the Hearing Examiner to allow
further testimony from their lead planner along with a new hydro geologist
Tom Missimer - which the HEX allowed.
After his testimony Depew was cross examined by county staff and our attorney
Tom Hart. Dawn Lehnert –
CountyAttorney expressed concern
about substantial changes related to the previously proposed “grout
curtain”. She indicated that the county staff was prepared to testify
about issues related to the grout curtain but was not prepared to offer
rebuttal on this 11th hour change to a “hydraulic barrier”.
expert witness Tom Missimer – Hydro geologist:
Explains that a “grout curtain” doesn’t work in sandy soil, so upper 20
feet of the project will need an alternative “hydraulic barrier” such as a
Such a barrier will not be installed unless monitoring and modeling
indicates a need to correct a problem with offsite groundwater levels.
This change was based in part on a new model prepared and run by Missimer.
The summary report was delivered just the day before the hearing.
The introduction of this
new model generated a great deal of concern by county staff as well as by
the HEX. The concern is that the county is blindsided by this new
information. There has been no opportunity to review the new model by county
staff & consultants. Their testimony is based on the previous model by CDM,
not the Missimer model. County wants 4-6 weeks to review. At this point the
HEX directed Missimer to testify about the model with no cross examination
by staff until a decision is made.
Missimer continued testimony about the
new MODFLOW 2000 based model. The controversy continued after a break, and
the county attorney indicated that based on the 11th hour
submittal of the substantial change in the application, the DCD director
could revoke the finding of sufficiency – even though it was by order of the
court. She indicated that the only alternative is a continuance in order
to allow 5-6 weeks for adequate review.
At this point the HEX
laid out changes to the planned dates for this hearing as follows:
1. Hearing will continue
this week, Aug 20 & 21. Testimony to be limited to subjects unrelated to
water modeling (i.e., traffic, blasting)
2. Hearing next week
will be limited to Wednesday, Aug 26th for expert witnesses for
the public (if needed).
3. Hearing continuance
dates are set for September 25, 29, 30, and October 6 and 7.
CountyStaffbegan their testimony with lead planner Chip Block. Block described the
applicant’s submittal history for this project spanning over two years. In
each of more than 5 submittals, the proposals for acreage, depths, and
materials to be excavated were different. The applicant never satisfied the
county’s sufficiency requirements.
On behalf of the public,
Kim Trebatowski with Kevin Erwin Consulting Ecologists and representing
Earthmark Southwest Mitigation Bank LLC was admitted as an expert in
environmental planning and wetland ecology. Trebatowski testified that:
project could adversely affect hydric pine plant communities on the adjacent
mitigation bank. Success of these restored communities is required under
their permits with SFWMD and DEP.
Monitoring wells are prone to errors and breakdowns which could ultimately
result in adverse impacts to hydrology.
On behalf of the
Responsible Growth Management Coalition, Dave Urich spoke:
opposition to new mines on
of Dover Kohl recommendations agreed to in principle by the BOCC
County staff continued
its rebuttal on August 20, 21 and the 26th. This effort concluded
with the following:
CountyTraffic Engineer, Harry
Campbell, testified that the addition of 2400 dump truck trips on Corkscrew Road will
make the road less safe and cause it to have more operational problems. His
presentation centered on the evidence that the addition of large trucks to
traffic stream on rural roads results in more fatal crashes and that the
limitations inherent in large trucks, such as slow acceleration and slow
deceleration, would result in problems with the proper functioning of the
traffic, notwithstanding that the commonly used Level of Service standards
showed the road to function at acceptable levels under County development
regulations. He said trucks slowing at intersections and to enter turn lanes
would cause segments of the road to function at less than desirable levels.
He said safety is a critical factor when adding a large number of trucks to
any road and that the national data shows fatal truck crashes to occur more
often on rural roads and where speeds are higher as they are on Corkscrew in
the area of concern. He also said that the narrow shoulders on Corkscrew Road were a significant
distinguishing factor between Corkscrew and Alico which made Corkscrew less
safe for truck traffic than is Alico. He also believes adding truck traffic
of this magnitude to Corkscrew will result in more rear-ending and sideswipe
accidents on that road. His ultimate conclusion was that the increase of
trucks proposed by this applicant will very likely increase traffic
operational and safety problems on
Much of Mr. Campbell's testimony relied on information
from the David Douglas & Associates "Lee County Truck Impact Evaluation"
Report prepared by David Douglas & Associates as part of the Dover Kohl
studies. Specifically, that study evaluated the impacts of heavy trucks from
mining operations on Alico Road
and Corkscrew Road
(east of Ben Hill Griffin Parkway). The study
evaluated both existing and additional truck traffic from mines, including
the RCH proposed mine. A significant statement in that report says in
reference to Alico and Corkscrew roads: "both roadways' peak hour volume
Level of Service is degraded by the cumulative effect of heavy truck traffic
from existing and proposed mines." The study calculated a cost of road
improvements necessary to deal with these truck impacts on those roads and
recommended a truck "road maintenance fee" of $.30 per truck per one-way
trip. The money would be used to maintain and improve those two roads.
In the afternoon of the 26th Jason Lauritsen
was qualified as an expert in Wood Stork ecology. His testimony included
both general and site-specific data about Wood Stork foraging in the area
and on the applicant's site. He expressed concerns about the proposed berm
around the mine, about the removal of existing ag ditches from the site
(because as his photos showed, they are presently used for wood Stork
foraging), and about the potential for the mine project to reduce annual
groundwater flow in the immediate vicinity of the mine site (which will
further reduce available Wood Stork foraging lands). He also testified that
the proposed site mitigation plans were not sufficient to offset the actual
impact of the project on the Wood Stork foraging areas. Although Jason is
clearly very knowledgeable about the subjects of groundwater flow and the
geology of the Corkscrew area, his testimony on those subjects and the
potential for harm to Wood Storks from poor analysis of the mine's impacts
on the groundwater was ruled inadmissible because he was not an "expert" in
those subjects. Jason's presentation was very well done and much
appreciated. As many of you know the Lee Comp Plan requires regulatory
measures to protect Wood Stork feeding and roosting areas and habitat, which
makes his testimony quite significant.
The next hearing date is September 25. Hearing Examiner
said that he will open the hearing at to any members of the public wishing to speak at that
time. Thus far we have had about 45 people testify in opposition to the RCH
We need many more residents to take the time
to testify, especially those who are directly affected by the truck traffic
on Corkscrew Road
or who live near this proposed mine. If anyone would like
assistance in preparing to testify please contact our attorney, Tom Hart, by
email at THart@knott-law.com .
There are additional hearing dates scheduled (Sep 29
and 30) but those are for the County staff to make its case and the Hearing
Examiner has said that as soon as the County Staff is finished, whenever
that may be, he will immediately open the hearing up one last time for
public input and after that no more public input will be allowed.
Thus, we need to be sure to get all
of our witnesses there on September 25 and September 29. Otherwise they
might not get to testify.
A recent court decision
has ordered LeeCounty to schedule a public hearing to
consider rezoning and mining permits for the proposed Resource Conservation
Holdings Mine. The request is to rezone 1,365 acres on Corkscrew Road to
mine lime rock to a depth of 110 feet with blasting.Because of the court order, the application must be reviewed under
the old mining rules rather than the more stringent Chapter 12 rules adopted
by the County last September.
The site is located on Corkscrew Road east
of Flint Pen Strand and is immediately adjacent to the SouthwestFloridaInternational
Park, the South Florida Water Management
District Corkscrew mitigation bank, and an established rural residential
cluster on Burgundy Farms Road. The recent County initiated DR/GR planning
study identified the project site as environmentally sensitive and
categorized it as a Priority 1 and Priority 2 Restoration area. The site is
outside of the Primary and Secondary Preferred Mining Area as identified by
the Dover Kohl and the DR/GR Steering Committee.
If this latest attempt
to industrialize Corkscrew Road
is approved, the decision would:
a new development pattern and set a precedent for seven other rock mine
applications pending on
permanent adverse impacts to hydrology, surface water flow, and natural
systems function of wetland and aquatic resources of regional importance
impact endangered and threatened species including the Florida Panther and
unacceptable impacts to community character and public safety by
potentially adding as many as 2,000 dump truck trips per day to Corkscrew Road
staff recommended that this rezoning application be DENIED.
In a parallel but
separate action, the County has begun a legal challenge of the proposed
mine’s consumptive water use permit on grounds that it would
adversely affect the recent Corkscrew municipal well field expansion. This
wellfield, along with the others in the DR/GR, supplies about 80% of all the
water consumed in LeeCounty.
Several wells installed as part of that expansion last year are immediately
adjacent to the RCH Mine project site.
Ownership of the RCH
Mine project includes Ascot Development which is also developing Midtown
Estero, as well as Youngquist Brothers Excavating which operates an active
rock mine on Alico Road.
Estero’s Housing Permits Continue Slow Pace
During July 11 single
family homes and 6 duplex units with a building value of $4.9 million were
permitted in Estero. This slowdown in construction of new homes should
continue to help reduce the inventory of unsold new homes constructed in
Estero during 2005 when 2,833
units were permitted.
The following table
shows how the first seven months of 2009 compares with the same period of
the prior nine years:
Building Value of Units
BuildingValue Per Unit
Percentage of Single Family Units
Not only are the 2009
total housing units far below all prior years, they equal only 9.5% of the
quantity during 2002, the season immediately following the tragedy of 9/11/2001.
On the other hand the
average building value, excluding the land beneath it, continues to
increase, up substantially from all prior years and over 2.5 times (166%
above) the average in 2000. Some of this increase is due to the increase in
the single family share of the permitted units.
Permitted CommercialBuilding Values Remain Very Slow
The first seven months of Estero building permits of all types continued at
a very slow pace. The value of
permitted in Estero during these seven months totaled $7.8 million.
Year to Date
As the above table indicates Estero’s commercial development started to
expand rapidly in 2004 and peaked in 2006 with a total of $184.7 million.
(All figures are exclusive of the underlying land). Nonetheless, 2007 was
still Estero’s second highest commercial development year, far ahead of the
third place year, 2005, with $111 million.
From January through July the major projects that contributed to the 2009
year to date total are: