From January through August about 59,000 persons visited this site
to learn about Estero. During the same period in 2007 only about 46,100
visited the site,
thus our website traffic increased by 28% year to year.
The community groups sponsoring the site are:
Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP)
Estero Civic Association (ECA)
Estero Design Review Committee (EDRC)
Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL)
Greater Estero Cultural Arts Council (Arts Estero)
On September 15th the BOCC voted unanimously to deny Ascot Development’s
application to rezone the Midtowne Estero development, located on the
southwest corner of Three Oaks and Corkscrew. This rezoning application
would have dramatically changed the zoning on the property by:
Increasing the amount of commercial on the property from 90,000
square feet to about 300,000 square feet including a 140,000 “Big Box”
Reducing the number of housing units from 234 to 92 units.
Many of the 20 Estero residents and representatives of the Estero
Community Planning Panel, the Estero Design Review Committee and the Estero
Council of Community Leaders who had testified against the rezoning when the
Hearing Examiner heard the case spoke in opposition to the rezoning.
The three primary objections raised in this testimony concerned the
impact of the development upon the already dangerous traffic congestion in
the area surrounding the Corkscrew/Three Oaks intersection, the potential
for downstream flooding especially in the
County Creek and
Sound communities and the “Big Box” store being inconsistent with the
area west of Three Oaks Parkway and as a generator of much additional
Most testifiers urged the BOCC to deny the request and retain the present
zoning for Midtowne Estero and find a way to deal with the workforce housing
issue that prompted the rezoning effort in the first place. The Board
responded to the Estero community and voted to deny the rezoning without a
lot of debate.
On September 17th several members of the ECCL and the Brooks Concerned
Citizens (BCC) toured Bamboo Island, a three acre tropical island in the
center of Estero at the intersection of the north and south branches of the
Estero River. Bamboo Island is located south of Broadway, east of Sandy Lane
and west of the Villages of Country Creek. It is a well maintained,
unspoiled, park-like property with several kinds of towering trees and a
couple of caves connected to the community by a bridge over the Estero
River. It is available for purchase and the ECCL and BCC would like to see
it preserved through purchase by one or more public bodies. To view some
pictures of the beautiful site click on the following link…
During September representatives of the Brooks Concerned Citizens and the
ECCL met with Fire Chief Scott Vanderbrook to discuss his recommended Fiscal
2008-09 budget for the fire district. The staff recommendation called for a
14% increase with a tax rate of 1.947 mills. The representatives suggested
several ways that the budget could be reduced including postponing
recommended increases in reserves, already at the $6 million level. As a
result the Chief recommended a $500,000 reduction in the request at the next
Board meeting. The Fire Commissioners approved the reduction to a property
tax rate of 1.9037.
On September 19th the Bonita Concerned Citizens recommended that the ECCL
form a joint committee to annually review the Fire District budget. This
recommendation was unanimously approved by the ECCL members.
On September 25th the Lee County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) voted to
reduce the County’s tax rate by 1.7%. In conjunction with an unprecedented
12% decline in the County’s property tax base Lee County taxpayers will pay
$60 million less in County property taxes this year than last. This action
will result in no raises of any kind for all 2,600 county employees this
year; leaving about 300 vacant positions vacant throughout the year and a
reduction of 83 highly paid employees as a result of an early retirement
The following sections detail the fiscal history of this year’s budget
process, last year’s belt tightening and the fiscal record of the County
over the last four years:
· On June 1st the Lee County
Property Appraiser announced that the taxable value of Lee County property
had declined to $84.5 billion, down $11.9 billion, or 12%, from the prior
year. This is the largest decline in Lee County property values since the
“Great Depression”. It is also one of the largest declines among all 72
· Lee County’s forecast of
revenues from all sources predicted a decline from the just completed fiscal
year to the new fiscal year (2008-09) of $145 to $185 million. Sixty (60)
million of this decline is due to the decrease in the assessed value of Lee
County property resulting from the overbuilt housing market and new property
tax benefits passed by the Florida legislature and approved by the recent
referenda. Another $85 million is due to the decline in impact fees
associated with the slowdown in building permits and construction activity
and the decline in gas tax revenue due to the high price of gasoline and
more fuel efficient vehicles.
· As a result Lee County
management asked each county department to produce three spending reduction
proposals that would result in decreases of 2 percent, 4 percent, and 7
· Thus the County Manager
proposed an operating budget for 2008-09 calling for decreases of 1.82%
(county operating departments), 52 percent (capital budget new projects),
and an increase of .41% for constitutional officers and court related
· The proposed 2008-09
operating budget includes no “cost of living” or “performance” increases for
all Lee County’s employees, including the Commissioners.
· The County has instituted
an early retirement program that offers 800 of its employees such an
opportunity. 83 employees agreed to participate in this program.
The Just Completed Fiscal Year
(October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008)
· This year’s operating and
capital budget (including constitutionals) decreased 1.8% (from 06-07) from
$1.23 billion to $1.21 billion. The revenue produced by the associated tax
rate was well below the combined population growth and inflation rate for
· In the spring of 2007 the
County anticipated the property tax legislative changes that were coming and
instituted a hiring freeze that has resulted in 300 vacant positions to
· Throughout the last two
fiscal years (2006-07 and 2007-08) County departments have been making
operating cost reductions. When the slowdown in construction activity
began in 2006 the County knew that several difficult fiscal years would
follow, so cutbacks were made and those savings reverted to reserves to be
used to reduce the impact of the revenue slowdown expected during the coming
fiscal year and beyond. A major reason that Lee County’s reserves
increased during this year is because operating departments did not spend
all of their budgets. In addition some projects were deferred to future
· The County used some of
its reserves this year for the following non-recurring projects:
o $2 million for the SWFAS treatment facility construction;
o $10 million committed to the South Florida Water Management
District to purchase 1,700 acres for a water quality project;
o $3.3 million for Bonita Beach Road Project Phase II;
o $1.5 million for Ceitus Boat lift;
o $1.5 million for Justice Center Smoke Evacuation System.
The Board of Lee County Commissioners has decreased its property tax
rates by 28.3 percent since 2004.
The combined countywide and unincorporated tax rates have declined from
7.5878 in Fiscal year 2003-04 to 5.4390 in the present 2007-08 fiscal
year.…that is a 28.3% decline in the last four years.
The County did still realize some growth in revenues during this period due
to the rapid increase in the assessed value of property throughout the
county. However it was not nearly as large as it would have been without
these rate reductions. Below are some of the prudent ways the County
used those growth revenues.
§ During this same 4 year period Lee County’s population has grown by
121,000 persons (from 521,000 to 635,000), an increase of 22%.
§ In 1994 the County had 5.4 employees per 1000 residents. Today
the County has 4.1 employees per 1000 residents and yet the County’s level
of service is as high as it ever has been.
§ The State legislature is constantly requiring the County to take on
additional responsibilities without providing any resources to pay for them
(“unfunded mandates”). These obligations are constantly growing.
During the 2003-04 fiscal year the new unfunded mandates cost the County
$16.4 million. By the recently completed fiscal year they more than doubled
to $36.3 million.
§ The County used growth revenues over the last several years for the
following big ticket items:
1. Road projects including the Estero Parkway flyover ($60
2. Justice center/parking garage ($30 million to avoid
issuing more debt),
3. Purchase of the SunTrust and Wachovia buildings mainly
for court related expansion needs ($30 million, again avoiding debt),
4. Post-retirement liabilities funding ($46 million).
§ During this period the County spent over $40 million of available
reserves to clean up after Hurricanes Charley and Wilma. While most of these
funds were ultimately reimbursed by FEMA, those payments were delayed many
§ The County has avoided issuing much debt in the last several years
by paying for a lot of projects with cash. In addition the County has
retired some of its outstanding debt early. As a result the County has
avoided the interest expense that financing these projects would have
On September 15 Wal-Mart representatives met with members of the Estero
Community Planning Panel (ECPP) and The Vines community to discuss a
proposal that would administratively amend the zoning on their property on
the northeast corner of US 41 and Estero Parkway. At present that zoning
prohibits construction of the Wal-Mart store until the six-laning of US 41
between Corkscrew Road and San Carlos Park is underway. Wal-Mart is seeking
community support that would encourage the Board of County Commissioners
(BOCC) to waive that provision so that they could proceed to construct the
As a result of the meeting Wal-Mart has agreed to present the proposal to
the Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP) at their November meeting.
Subsequently the community representatives reported to the Estero Council of
Community Leaders (ECCL) about the proposal and the members of the ECCL
asked them to invite Wal-Mart to their November meeting as well.
Six laning of I-75 continues about 100 days ahead of schedule and is
expected to be completed in about two years, in mid to late 2010.
Expressway Authority Activity
On September 17th Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE), Florida’s major
tollway authority, presented their traffic and revenue study to the
Southwest Florida Expressway Authority. The study analyzed the financial
feasibility of using tolls, including tolling lanes 5 and 6 now under
construction, to finance the 10 laning of I-75 beginning about 2015 or a few
years later given the slowdown of the economy.
Some of the major conclusions of the study are:
· By about 2015 the six
lanes of I-75 will fail (Level of Service F) between Martin Luther King
(SR82) and Immokalee Road, including the Estero and Bonita Springs area.
· By about 2030 a ten lane
I-75 will nearly fail (Level of Service E) at Corkscrew Road and Bonita
· By about 2045 a ten lane
I075 will fail (Level of Service F) at Corkscrew Road and Bonita Beach Road.
· If I-75 were 10 laned in
about 2015 with tolls on lanes of lanes 5 and 6 significant toll revenues
would not be generated until after 2030 and would still be insufficient to
pay the entire cost of the additional 4 lanes. Most toll roads in Florida
are initially financed with some non-toll revenues.
· The longer we delay the
start of the 10 laning project, and allow the traffic level and congestion
to increase, the better toll financing works for the 10 laning project.
After the presentation the SWFEA Board discussed the alternatives of tolling
lanes 5 and 6 in Lee County when lanes 5 and 6 open in 2010 or trying to add
tolls to those lanes when the 10 lane project gets underway. They discussed
the difficulty of adding tolls to existing lanes after they have been
toll-free for some time. The Board decided that they would address this
issue with the Lee County Board in the near future.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Activity
At the September 19th MPO meeting Florida Department of Transportation
(FDOT) staff presented plans for improving the Bonita Beach Road I-75
Interchange. This improvement would be partially funded by the $10 million
temporarily diverted by Congress to the Coconut I-75 interchange. That
amount has now been reduced by Congress, along with other earmarks, to $9
FDOT’s study proposes a two phase plan to improve the interchange. The first
phase, to be completed in 2012, would alter the existing I-75 bridge over
Bonita Beach Road so that additional lanes could be constructed under that
bridge. Most importantly another east bound left turn lane is badly needed
and would be provided by this improvement. This modification is expected to
maintain an acceptable level of service (Level D) until 2016. The cost of
this improvement is estimated to range from $9.1 million to $18.2 million.
FDOT has been examining other sources of revenue to supplement the $9
Collier County is seeking some of the $9 million earmark. This issue will be
discussed at the Joint Lee and Collier MPO meeting in October.
According to FDOT another lane will be required in each direction on Bonita
Beach Road after 2016, thus necessitating replacement of the I-75 bridge
over Bonita Beach Road. This project is estimated to cost about $43.4
On September 16th staff of the South Florida Water Management District
and their consultants (Boyle Engineering and A. D. A. Engineering) briefed
all interested south Lee County citizens about the first phase of their
work, the Project Orientation and Data Collection Phase, necessary to update
the South Lee County Watershed Study. In addition they discussed their plans
for completing the study.
During the last two months Lee County and SFWMD began to update the
database for the study area. During this period all of the deficiencies in
our knowledge about the watershed were identified and the proposed research
objectives were outlined for presentation at this public meeting.
The assembled group, mainly from Estero and Bonita Springs, asked many
questions and made many suggestions for improving the study. Everyone in
attendance wanted to be sure the study would provide some answers to the
causes of the recent flooding in Bonita Springs. For further information
about the work to date see the following link…
. The SFWMD and the consultants will continually post the progress of the
study in this section of the District’s web site.
The flood control model being updated for this effort will be presented to
the South Lee County communities in mid-December followed by draft findings
in March 2009 and the final report in April 2009. SFWMD’s deadline for
completion of the study is May 14, 2009.
On February 14th the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
agreed to undertake a comprehensive study, with Lee County as an equal
partner, which will update the 1998 South Lee County Watershed Plan. This
will allow all interested parties, including the City of Bonita Springs, to
the best way to handle flood waters in our area,
if any and how many culverts should be installed under I-75 just
east of The Brooks, and
where and how the water should be directed to reduce flood dangers
throughout South Lee County in a way that enhances the environment and
water quality entering Estero Bay.
On May 8th staff of the SFWMD and Lee County Department of Natural
Resources briefed the public, representatives of the City of Bonita Springs,
ECCL, the Brooks Concerned Citizens, The Conservancy and Lee County
Commissioner Ray Judah on the scope of work in the consulting contract for
this important flood control study of our area in a workshop in the Bonita
Springs City Council Chambers. All in attendance from Estero and Bonita
Springs agreed that the study addressed all the concerns that both
communities have raised during the scope development phase.
During September, after two years of research and planning, the Board of
County Commissioners (BOCC) made two important decisions about the 83,000
acre Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) area located just east
of I-75 in Estero and Bonita Springs.
Planning for Mining in the DR/GR
On September 5th the BOCC voted to concentrate mining in the DR/GR to the
traditional mining corridor along Alico Road. The Board directed Lee County
planning staff to develop the comprehensive plan amendments and land
development code changes necessary to create a “Preferred Mining” area in
this corridor that would consist primarily of the already zoned mines along
with some of the land included in the long pending Florida Rock #2 mine
Under present zoning regulations mining could be approved in any part of the
83,000 acre DR/GR. There are many applications pending for large mines along
east Corkscrew Road. If all these mines were approved Estero would see
thousands of dump trucks on its major roads every working day.
New Mine Regulations
On September 9th the BOCC voted to adopt a new chapter in the Land
Development Code regulating the approval and operation of existing and new
mines in Lee County. Prior to this vote Lee County staff had met with all of
the mining interests on many occasions and tried to satisfy their
operational and other concerns. In spite of this several representatives of
the industry testified in opposition to some of the provisions in the new
code. In addition several members of the public and from the Estero
community testified in support of the staff recommendations and made some
suggestions for change.
The Commissioner’s debate focused on the following three issues:
The Width of Wildlife Habitat Corridors: County staff had
recommended 100 feet as the minimum width for these corridors in
response to industry criticism of earlier wider corridors. In the end
the Commissioners agreed with community suggestions of a 300 foot
Mine Mitigation Fee: County staff included a provision that
would give the BOCC the authority to impose a mine mitigation fee to pay
for road maintenance costs resulting from trucks hauling fill and rock
from the mines. The mining industry representatives testified in
opposition to this provision. The community representatives supported
it. In the end the BOCC voted to keep this provision in the ordinance.
Post Mining Use: County staff recommended that mine applications
must include provisions for post mine use, if that is the plan of the
applicant. All post mine uses must be approved by the BOCC when the mine
is originally zoned. Thus efforts by mine operators to leave some land
around the mine pit for future development as a housing project must be
approved up front and not be added as the landowner approaches the end
of their mining activities. Historically mine land owners have waited
until they were nearly through mining before seeking this additional
rezoning authority. Dover Kohl, the DR/GR advisory committee and the
community generally is opposed to this approach because it reduces the
productivity of each mine and creates the need for more mines, more
widely dispersed throughout the DR/GR with adverse impacts on the
natural values located in the DR/GR. In the end the BOCC supported the
staff and the community on this provision.
These regulations will benefit the County and its residents through the
preservation of our future water supply…70% of our drinking water comes from
wells in the DR/GR; by preserving the habitat needed by many endangered
plants and animals that inhabit the area; by preventing flooding of our
rivers and streams and improving the cleanliness of these water bodies and
Establish Road Impact Fees for Mines
On September 22nd the BOCC voted to approve an impact fee consultant’s
recommendation that will for the first time impose road impact fees on mines
so that they will begin to pay for some of the road maintenance and repair
costs caused by the trucks that serve them. Under this provision new mines
and expansions of mines will be charged 4 cents per cubic yard exported from
the mine site. Most of Lee County’s mines contain millions of cubic yards of
fill and rock so this fee will eventually produce significant funds for the
County’s road repair program.
The Estero Community Improvement Foundation (ECIF) Sponsors a
Fashion Show in Support of
Their Landscaping Project around Estero High School
On November 12th the ECIF will hold their second annual Fashion Show and
Luncheon at Bice Grand Cafe at Coconut Point. Enjoy a wonderful lunch while
Dillard’s presents the latest Fall Fashions. Come and receive a Dillard’s
gift bag containing, among many items, with a three day 15% discount. Raffle
tickets will be sold for $1 each or 6 for $5. Raffle prizes include:
a $500 shopping spree at Dillard's,
dinner for two at Tarpon Bay Restaurant at the Hyatt,
one complimentary round of golf for four at the Colony Golf and
two $100 gift certificates for dinner at Angelina's Ristorante.
Door prizes will also be awarded.
100% of the proceeds will benefit the Estero Community Improvement
Seating begins at 11:30 and a lunch of Asian salad with plum dressing,
rolls, a luscious dessert of brownie with ice cream and whipped cream plus
coffee, iced tea or soft drink will be served at noon.
The ticket price for this event is a donation of $35. A few tickets are
still available but will not last much longer!
Tickets may be purchased at:
Colonial Bank in the Corkscrew Plaza
Dillard's office on the second floor,
Judy Beach at 948-9366
Barbara Goodrich at 948-1485
Dot Dronkers at 949-0383.
During August only 9 housing units, all single family homes, with a value
of $2.9 million were permitted in Estero. The first eight months of 2008
continue the downward trend in new housing construction in Estero that began
over two years ago, in the spring of 2006.
The following table shows how the first eight months of 2008 compare with
the prior eight years:
Building Value of Units
Value Per Unit
Percentage of Single Family Units
Not only are this year’s total housing units far below all prior years,
they equal only 12% of the comparable number in 2002, the season immediately
following the tragedy of 9/11/2001 and is only 29% of last year’s total for
On the other hand the average building value, excluding the land beneath
it, continues to increase, up 24% from the prior high set last year and
almost two and one-half times the average in 2000.
The building permits of all types issued during the eight months of 2008
continued at a very slow pace. The value of commercial
buildings permitted in Estero during the eight months totaled $36
Year to Date
As the right hand column of the above table indicates Estero’s commercial
development started to expand rapidly in 2004, peaking in 2006 with a total
of $184.7 million. (All figures are exclusive of the underlying land). The
2000 calendar year was exceptional because it was the year that the Hyatt
Coconut Point Hotel and Resort was permitted.
2007 was Estero’s second highest commercial development year, far ahead
of the third place year, 2005. Thus far 2008 is Estero’s fifth ranked
commercial development year. While Estero’s commercial development has
slowed considerably since last year, many commercially zoned properties
along US 41 and Corkscrew Road have been cleared, the sites prepared and the
designs approved by the Estero Design Review Committee. Estero’s commercial
growth is poised for expansion once the current slowdown is over.
During the first eight months the major projects that contributed to the
year to date totals are:
$10.19 million for the Hyatt Garden Hotel at Coconut Point
$8.0 million for Extra Space Storage in Coconut Point
$6.70 million in the
Coconut Point Town Center;
$4.95 million for
$1.7 million for Finemark National Bank at the Brooks Town Center
$1.06 million for Lee County Utilities
$950,000 for Wachovia Bank at Coconut Point
$450,382 for 24231 Walden Center remodeling
$376,000 for Estero Chevrolet
$300,000 for West Bay commercial development
$240,000 in the Estero Ridge Shopping Center
$241,600 in Estero Town Commons
$626,000 in the
Brooks Town Center (retail) at Coconut Road and Three Oaks Parkway
$209,000 in the
International Design Center
REMINDER: The building values understate the cost of each residence or
commercial building because it excludes the value of the underlying land.