From January through March about 24,800 persons visited this site
to learn about Estero. During the same period in 2007 only about 18,650
visited the site,
thus our website traffic increased by 33% year to year.
On the peak day this year 557 persons visited the site - up from 298 in 2007.
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)
The Estero Community Improvement Foundation (ECIF) would like to thank the
Copperleaf Foundation for the generous $2,500 grant that it recently approved
for the ECIF and its Estero High School Landscaping project.
In September 2007, Lee County Commissioners adopted an Action Plan to study
land use alternatives in the Southeast Lee
Resource (DR/GR) area. As part of that plan, Dover, Kohl & Partners has
been hired to gather input from property owners, local citizens and others; to
use this input to develop land use scenarios for the Southeast Lee DR/GR; and to
recommend Lee County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code changes to the
Board of County Commissioners for their approval. The consultants were in Lee
County from April 16th through the 24th to learn how the public as well as the
landowners want the 83,000 acre DR/GR to develop in the future. During this
period the consultants met with the DR/GR advisory committee, small groups with
particular interests and knowledge and a large five hour workshop (“Charette”)
attended by about 100 Lee County residents etc. who took the time to
Kevin Hill of the Corkscrew Road Rural Community summarized this session as
“Today’s DR/GR planning workshop went very well. There were around 75-100
people there including residents, environmental groups and agencies, county
staff, engineering & planning firms, and consultants, general public, etc.
Attendees were divided randomly into 10 groups. Each group was given a large map
of the DR/GR and tasked with placing colored stickers on the map. Each sticker
color represented one of three different land-uses: mining, conservation, and
higher density residential. Each group was given different percentages of the
three colors – some groups were more heavily weighted toward mining, and some
toward conservation. At the end of the exercise, a spokesperson from each group
presented the map and highlighted the ideas and solutions that the group
The results showed surprising similarities between the 10 different tables
even though each group worked on the exercise independently. Specifically, there
was common line of thinking in terms of conserving connections & corridors
between important habitats and between surface water flow-ways. Although not
unanimous, there was also considerable agreement on the notion of restricting
mining activities to the established Alico mining corridor, and encouraging
expansion of existing mining developments as opposed to distributing new mining
activities in new areas throughout the DR/GR. There was also general agreement
on the idea of transferring allowable residential density from inside the DR/GR
to areas outside areas that need the higher density development such as Bonita,
Lehigh, etc.” (the underlines were added for emphasis.)
Throughout their stay the consultant’s created many maps of the area
depicting several alternative development scenarios. Their contract with the
County requires them to develop three alternatives for presentation to the BOCC
for their consideration and amendment or approval, probably in June. During the
final two steps in this week long process the consultants reviewed several
scenarios with the advisory committee, amended the scenarios to account for the
committee’s comments and then present them to the public on the last day of
their 8 day visit.
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 decide:
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.
During the last two and one-half months the County and SFWMD staffs have
worked with the Estero and Bonita Springs communities to develop a scope or work
for the study acceptable to all parties. The Estero Community, the City of Bonita
Springs and The Conservancy insisted that there be at least three opportunities
for public input during the study. This provision has been added to the scope of
work. That scope of work has now been completed and the BOCC and the SFWMD staff
have approved it. The District has contracted with Boyle Engineering to complete
the study and the County and the District had their first meeting with the
The consultant’s first task is to gather all the existing information needed
and determine what else will be needed to complete the study.
The only one major deadline that has been set is the drop dead completion
date. The contractor is required, as per the permit issued to FDOT by the SFWMD,
to have the study completed within 15 months from the permit issuance (Feb. 08).
That means the study must be completed by May 09. We continue to be concerned
about completing this work prior to this deadline, are seeking a copy of the
detailed study schedule and will be monitoring its progress very closely.
One other date has been set and that is for a kickoff meeting with the
interested parties to explain the project. That meeting is scheduled for
Thursday, May 8, at 9 A.M. in Bonita Springs.
Although the Florida legislature will not adjourn until Friday, May 2nd, it
looks like the mining industry’s all-out effort to shift decision-making
regarding mining permitting and regulation from the Counties to the State has
been prevented by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation
Committee’s rejection of SB 774 and SB 2406 on April 17th.
Our thanks go out to Committee Chairman Burt Saunders and to Senators Dockery
Justice and Rush who provided the votes that killed these bad bills. Senate
rules prevent the substance of bills that have been defeated in Committee from
being considered as floor amendments to other bills that will be considered on
the Senate floor. We are told that Senate President Ken Pruitt is going to make
sure this rule is strongly enforced this year. As we go to press the miner’s
House bill, PCB ENVC 08-13, has not been approved by the Committee nor been
voted on the House floor. Should this bill pass the House this week it will
probably not be considered by the Senate.
Had this legislation become law all of the County’s DR/GR planning and the
$1.4 million that is paying for it would probably be have been negated.
In addition to the Senator Saunders and the members of his committee, Lee
County Commissioners Frank Mann and Tammy Hall and County staff and lobbyists
worked diligently in Tallahassee to produce this result. In addition, ECCL and
16 other organizations jointly communicated our concern about the adverse impact
of this legislation to the sponsors, the committees, the legislative leaders and
In little over one month over 1,700 people registered on the site to send
emails to these decision-makers. From 200 to nearly 700 people sent emails to
each of the key decision-makers in each campaign. In the process over 20,000
emails were sent to our State leaders on the mining preemption issue in less
than 40 days.
On April 4th Lee County’s Chief Hearing Examiner recommended that the Board
of County Commissioners deny the Estero Group
mine zoning application, without
prejudice. This decision, if upheld by the BOCC, will allow the applicant
to once again seek rezoning for this property within one year. As you may recall
the Estero Group mine application seeks to rezone a 318 acre parcel along the
north side of Corkscrew Road about 7 miles east of I-75 for development as a
fill dirt mine operation.
The Summary of the Hearing Examiner Recommendation states that after careful
review the Hearing Examiner concluded that (underlines added for emphasis):
“1) Lee County’s and Applicant’s expert witnesses could not state - with
certainty that the conditions proposed throughout the hearing would adequately protect the
County’s water quantity or quality, wildlife, or other natural resources in the
DR/GR area, as intended by Policy 1.4.5. and Goals 10, 107, 114, 115 and 117;
2) The residents of the DR/GR area will be adversely affected by the mining
operation - even as conditioned by Staff and Applicant, particularly by the
increased amount of mining related truck traffic on Corkscrew Road, a narrow
rural arterial, which provides the only access to their homes.
The Hearing Examiner’s greatest concerns in this case stem from the
uncertainty of Staff’s and Applicant’s experts that the conditions were adequate
to protect the DR/GR lands and functions. First, she is concerned that any
approval of this request may "lock" Lee County into a development pattern that
may prove to be inconsistent and incompatible with the intent of the DR/GR -
i.e., zoning by the "domino effect."
Second, she is concerned that, with all the unknowns about this area and this
request, the approval of this mining operation could have unpredictable and
irrevocable long-term or future impacts on the DR/GR functions, which could
jeopardize the County’s future water supply.
Lastly, the Lee Plan and the Land Development Code require all these issues
to be reviewed and addressed during the zoning stage, so that Staff can
determine and ensure consistency with the Lee Plan and compatibility with other
uses. Once the request has been approved and moves forward for development
orders/permits, changes in the existing circumstances or changes in the proposed
conditions of approval will not be reviewed again for consistency with the
intent of the Lee Plan nor for compatibility with the other uses in this area.
In addition, in that instance, neither the BOCC nor the public will have a
chance to review the new conditions or changed circumstances to determine if the
project should still be approved.”
The BOCC is expected to consider this case in early June. All fifty-one (51)
Estero residents who testified before the Hearing Examiner are entitled to
testify at the BOCC Hearing.
Palm Beach County Approves Two New Mines Containing 11,000 Acres in the
Everglades Agricultural Area Just South of Lake Okeechobee
On April 24th the Palm Beach County Board approved two large mining
applications in the sugar cane farming area south of Lake Okeechobee. They are:
The South Bay Quarry contains 3,773 acres and will be mined by Rinker
Materials at a rate of 100 acres per year for over 30 years, and
The Lake Harbor
Quarry contains 7,351 acres and will be mined by Florida Rock Industries at a
rate of 100 acres per year for over 70 years. This land is owned by U.S. Sugar.
That firm has already obtained a $13 million state subsidy to upgrade their rail
line in order to carry the rock to market.
According to the Palm Beach Post both of these firms are major contributors
to local, State and Federal office-holders. Florida Rock Industries has
contributed at least $524,000 in Florida campaign contributions since 1995 and
its public action committee (PAC) has contributed almost $150,000 to Federal
races since 1998. Rinker has donated over $311,000 to candidates in federal
races over the last 10 years and over $664,000 in state races since 1995.
A third application for the 533 acre Bergeron mine expansion was postponed
until May 22nd.
In May, 2006 the Palm Beach County Commission approved another 4,000 acre
mine for Stewart Mining Industries.
Opposition to The Palm Beach Mines
All these mine applications have been opposed by a large coalition of
environmental groups that have unsuccessfully raised objections about the mines’
impact upon the area’s underground water supplies and their impact upon ongoing
Everglades restoration efforts.
How Large Are These Mines?
The 15,000 acres of mines approved by the Palm Beach County Board over the
last two years is enormous. These mines will be able to produce almost 4 times
the total output of all DR/GR mines during the last 25 years according to Dover,
Kohl & Partners, Lee County’s DR/GR planning consultants. They estimate that
about 4,000 acres of DR/GR lands have been mined during the last quarter
century. In addition they estimate that all of Lee County’s permitted DR/GR
mines have another 4,000 acres of permitted, available aggregate resources to be
mined over the next decade or two, depending on the market demand for this
While we are opposed to these mines because of their location, these large
mines will be able to efficiently supply the eastern part of the southwest
Florida aggregate market as future development inevitably moves inland,
including the Babcock Ranch development and its highway needs. The Babcock Ranch
is about 65 miles from the 7,351 acre Lake Harbor Quarry site.
If Estero is to maintain the support of the Board of County Commissioners
(BOCC), the community must register and vote intensively in the August 26th
Republican Primary election and later in the November 4th General Election.
Persons interested in voting in these Florida elections, especially
“Snowbirds”, need to register to vote between now and July 28th.
In September 2007 the Supervisor of Elections removed 5,200 Estero voters
from the election rolls. In spite of that action Estero’s total registered vote
has regained all but 333 of those voters. The total registered voters in all
precincts containing some Estero territory have fallen from 21,632 to 21,299
since the last General Election in November 2006.
Part of the reason this gap has been closed is because of registration growth
in some of our newest, expanding communities like Bella Terra, Belle Lago, The
Reserve at Estero and Osprey Cove. The precincts in which these communities are
located have grown by about 700 voters since November, 2006 while all other
Estero precincts have declined by over 1,000 voters
Thus much registration work needs to be done in order for Estero to vote in
the County Commission races as actively as we have in the past.
The following section describes how Estero’s unregistered voters can register
to vote in Florida later this year. You need not be in Florida to register and
once registered you may vote by absentee ballot without returning to Florida.
How to Register to Vote in Florida
Any person at least 18 years of age, who is a citizen of the United States
and a permanent resident of Florida and of the County where he or she wishes to
register, is eligible to register with the Supervisor of Elections. Once
registered, if you vote at least once every four years, your registration is
active and permanent.
Lee County Supervisor of Elections
P.O Box 2545
Fort Myers, Florida 33902
Other Ways to Register
Registration forms may be obtained and completed at the Lee County Supervisor
of Elections satellite office at 24951 Old US 41 Suite 10, Bonita Springs. This
office is open from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. It is located on
the east side of Old 41 about two blocks south of the US 41/Old 41
intersection…just north of the railroad tracks.
Registration forms can also be obtained at public libraries, Chambers of
Commerce, the Department of Motor Vehicles and AAA Motor Club sites throughout
For information on registration, absentee voting etc. call (239) 533-8683.
During March only 3 housing units, all single family homes, with a value of
$1.04 million were permitted in Estero. The first quarter of 2008 continues the
downward trend in new housing construction in Estero that began in the spring of
2006, two years ago.
Housing units permitted during 2007 were by far the lowest in the 9 years
that the County’s system has tracked Estero’s permits. It would appear that 2008
will be much lower than that minimum performance
The following table shows how the first three months of 2008 compare with the
prior eight years:
Building Value of Units
Value Per Unit
Percentage of Single Family Units
Not only are the 2008 total housing units far below all prior years, they
equal only 14% of the quantity permitted 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 33% from the prior high set last year and over two and
one-half times the average building value in 2000.
First quarter building permits of all types continued at a very slow pace.
The value of
commercial buildings permitted in Estero during the quarter totaled $18.8
As the right hand column of the above table indicates Estero 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). 2007 was
Estero’s second highest commercial development year, far ahead of the third
place year, 2005. Thus far 2008 is running ahead of 2005. While it has slowed
considerably Estero’s commercial growth is far from over.
During the first quarter the major projects that contributed to the year to
date totals are:
$10.19 million for the Hyatt Garden Hotel at Coconut Point