During the first eleven months of 2007 an estimated 67,500 persons visited this site to learn about Estero. During the same period last year only about 43,100 visited the site, thus 2007 have seen an increase of nearly 57% above last 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)
Florida’s first election of 2008, on January 29th, should be important to most of Estero’s registered voters because it includes:
The Presidential Preference Primary for Both Political Parties, and
The Comprehensive Property Tax Reform Referenda.
Who Can Vote On January 29th?
The following persons can vote:
All voters who are currently registered to vote here in Florida. At present about 13,550 voters are registered to vote in Estero’s five precincts, up about 275 during the last two months.
All “inactive voters”… these are voters who were registered to vote here in Estero but have not voted since 2002…about 5,200 registered Estero voters were declared “inactive” by the Lee County Election Supervisor earlier this summer... they can vote in this election without reregistering.
Three Ways You Can Vote
There are three ways you can vote in Florida. Florida makes absentee voting exceptionally easy so you may want to try it even if you expect to be in Florida at the time of the election.
ABSENTEE VOTING: If you and your family will not be in Florida on January 29th or prefer to vote by absentee you can easily vote by absentee by calling (239) LEE-VOTE (533-8683). The Supervisor of Elections will take your absentee ballot requests over the phone in less than five minutes and mail the ballots to you wherever you want them sent. Call now so that postage delays will not prevent your vote from counting. In addition the Supervisor can sign up you and all the registered voters in your family for absentee ballots for all the elections during the next 12 months.
EARLY VOTING: Starting Monday, January 14th through Saturday, January 26th you may cast your vote at the Supervisor of Elections Office, 24951 Old US 41, Suite 10 in Bonita Springs. Their office hours are 10 to 6 Monday through Friday and from 9 to 5 on Saturday. This office is located on the east side of Old 41 just south of where Old 41 terminates into US 41 near the main entrance to Pelican Landing.
ELECTION DAY VOTING: Or you may vote at your Polling Place, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on January 29th.
Estero Polling Places
Number of Registered Voters
South County Regional Library, west side of Three Oaks Parkway
just north of Corkscrew Road
EsteroCommunityPark, south side of Corkscrew Road
just west of Sandy Lane
(Via Coconut Point)
Fountain Lakes Clubhouse, west side of US 41 just south of
First Assembly South, 21580 River Ranch Road, just south of Corkscrew Road on the west side of River Ranch
StoneybrookCommunity Center, on Stoneybrook Golf Drive
within the Stoneybrook community.
Your voter registration card has your precinct number on it. If you can’t find your card, call the Election Supervisor’s office for you precinct number at (239) LEE-VOTE (533-8683).
On December 14th the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Works Program for 2008/09 to 2012/2013 without funding for any of the Coconut-I-75 Interchange projects. Unless the MPO should later reconsider this vote the I-75 Coconut Road Interchange is dead for the next five years.
Later that day John Spear, Councilman-elect of the City of Bonita Springs, Nancy Keefer of the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce, Amy Davies and Kris Cella, consultants for the Southwest Florida Expressway Authority (SWFEA) discussed their joint efforts with ECCL to include improvement of the Bonita Beach/I-75 and Corkscrew/I-75 interchanges in the ten-laning plans under development by the SWFEA.
Earlier, on December 11th the ECCL and the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce testified in favor of Lee County Board of County Commissioner (BOCC) approval of SWFEA conduct of an “Investment Grade Traffic and Revenue Study” to determine if revenue bonds can be sold to finance ten-laning I-75 between the Lee County border with Collier County and just north of the airport including improvement of both the Bonita Beach Road and Corkscrew Road I-75 interchanges. In spite of opposition by a group from Collier County the BOCC voted 4 to1 to continue support for the 10 laning project at least until the Traffic and Revenue Study is completed.
This study will be financed using State or Federal funds. SWFEA expects that it will take about 6 months to secure funding for the Study and 9 to 12 additional months to complete the Study.
Local, state and federal road construction funding is heavily dependent upon gasoline taxes. This source of revenue has been declining in recent years due to the escalating price of gasoline and improvements in vehicle fuel economy. Thus tolls are rapidly becoming a major source of highway funding throughout the U.S.
On December 5th Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma refused to consent to any technical correction legislation necessary to correct the Coconut/I-75 diversion from I-75 widening and improvement to a Coconut Road/I-75 Interchange until the matter has been publicly reviewed. As a result of Senator Coburn’s action the technical corrections bill containing the Coconut I-75 interchange was not implemented although press reports indicated that staff for all the key legislators in both the House and Senate had agreed to the terms of the technical corrections legislation.
At the conclusion of the September 28th MPO meeting, Commissioner Ray Judah asked representatives of ECCL and the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce to meet with him to explore ways to keep the $10 million Coconut Road I-75 Interchange earmark allocated for use in South Lee County, preferably for use on the Bonita Beach Road I-75 interchange.
The first meeting between these parties extensively discussed how those in attendance could support a common position regarding the use of the $10 million. This meeting concluded with a consensus that the Southwest Florida Expressway Authority’s proposal for 10 laning I-75 with six toll lanes between either Immokalee Road or the Lee County line and the Airport is essential for the early completion of the group’s top joint priorities, reconstruction of the Bonita Beach and Corkscrew Road Interchanges with I-75. This corridor is to be studied by the Expressway Authority, thus it was decided that the group should meet with the Authority before determining the corridor study parameters.
The ECCL and the Bonita Chamber met a second time on November 14th with Bill Barton, Chairman of the Expressway Authority, Don Scott, Executive Director of the Lee MPO, Dave Loveland of Lee DOT, Debbie Tower of FDOT, Kris Cella consultant to the Expressway Authority and Amy Davies, formerly of Lee County DOT, and now a SWFEA traffic consultant.
The next significant step that the Expressway Authority needs to take to move the-laning project along (as well as to provide more detailed and dependable numbers to address the concerns of some of the projects detractors) is an “investment grade traffic and revenue study”. Such a study would contain sufficient detail and specificity that it could be used to determine the marketability of the revenue bonds (whether issued by a public body, private entity or both) necessary for the construction of the 10 lane project
In conclusion, two organizations, convened by a public official, who had bitterly opposed each other concerning this issue for about two years and at the September 28, 2007 MPO meeting found common ground by reaching consensus they should work with the Expressway Authority in order to expeditiously address their common goals of improving the Bonita Beach I-75 Interchange and the Corkscrew I-75 Interchange by supporting the Expressway Authority’s “investment grade traffic and revenue study” and using the $10 million earmark for “the widening and improvement of I-75” prior to or within the first phase of the 10 laning corridor project.
This proposal was discussed at length at the quarterly Joint meeting between the Bonita Springs City Council and the ECCL on November 30th. Although not all participants were prepared to commit to the approach, considerable support was expressed by both groups of participants.
John Spear, Councilman-elect of the City of Bonita Springs, was most helpful throughout the whole process. Amy Davies and Kris Cella, Consultants to the Expressway Authority, provided valuable information at this meeting as well.
Construction of Imperial Street in Bonita from East Terry to Bonita Beach Road began July 17, 2006 and should be completed in 18 months. Gary Price, Bonita Springs City Manager recently announced that this segment would open to traffic on January 28, 2008.
Construction of Three Oaks Parkway south of The Brooks to East Terry Street started May 8, 2006 and should be complete in 20 months. Gary Price, Bonita Springs City Manager recently announced that this segment would open to traffic on January 28, 2008. The completion of these two segments will provide a third four-lane corridor from Corkscrew Road south to Radio Road in Naples.
The Three Oaks widening project between Corkscrew Road and Alico Road began December 4, 2006. The project will widen Three Oaks Parkway to four lanes and should be completed by the summer of 2008.
The Estero Parkway Flyover between Three Oaks Parkway and Ben Hill Griffin began construction after approval by the BOCC on August 7, 2007. The contract calls for project completion in 540 days, which would open the road for use in February 2009.
DOT/Traffic is installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Three Oaks Road & Coconut Road. The signal is now operational. There will be ongoing signal related work after Dec. 25th.
Lee County DOT Operations is managing the installation of irrigation and landscaping in the median at Corkscrew Road and I - 75 Interchange. This project began on October 25, 2007 and has an anticipated completion date of December 31, 2007.
Lee County, while growing rapidly, in 1989 set aside about 150 square miles (over 90,000 acres) in the southeastern area of the county for low density and groundwater resource protection. Half of Estero, its eastern end, is located within the DR/GR. For a map of the DR/GR area see http://esterofl.org/EsteroLife/environment.htm#DRGR .
The Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL) in 2005 committed itself to seeking County approval of a research program that would provide the County with the information that it needs to properly plan the area and protect the natural resources within it.
Development pressures on the DR/GR have grown rapidly during the last decade and they continue to mount. Some pending threats to the DRGR are:
An attempt to construct an interchange at Coconut Road and I-75 in order to open up the land to the east for development,
A plan to build a four-mile canal along the east side of I-75 in order to drain all or a major part of 4,000 acres of mostly high quality wetlands,
Five, and maybe more, pending applications for new dirt and aggregate mines along Corkscrew Road east of I-75, and
A County comprehensive plan change application that would authorize a 2,800 acre mixed use development south of the intersection of Daniels Road and County Road 82, the northern boundary of the DRGR.
Two other matters that have some potential for improving the availability of clean drinking water are the pending amendment to the County’s Wellfield Protection Ordinance, a statute adopted by the County in 1989 but largely unaltered since that time, and a Fertilizer Ordinance.
The following sections detail some of the recent activities associated with these threats and actions.
On December 4th the BOCC approved the staff recommendation directing the staff to negotiate a contract with Dover, Kohl & Partners to complete a comprehensive DR/GR policy and planning study in an amount not to exceed $750,000.
Also during November the Lee County Commissioners appointed all 15 members of the DR/GR Ad-hoc Advisory Committee. Each Commissioner appointed three members, one each from the following three categories:
· Mining, industry, FDOT, large landowners in the Southeast DR/GR,
· Residents of the Southeast DR/GR and Estero area, and
· Other countywide interests including environmental, water management district, general citizens.
Estero residents appointed to the Advisory Committee are Linda Tanner, a resident of The Brooks with environmental engineering and environmental scientist training and experience, Kevin Hill, who is active with the Corkscrew Road Rural Community and Don Eslick, Chairman of the ECCL. The Advisory Committee will work with County staff and their consultants to prepare recommendations to the BOCC that satisfy the DR/GR Action Plan approved by the Board on September 11, 2007. A copy of the approved Action Plan may be viewed at http://www.lee-county.com/dcd/Downloads/Information/SELeeActionPlan2007911.pdf .
On December 12th the DR/GR Advisory Committee met for the first time. The Committee selected three Chairpersons to head the Committee:
· Dennis Gilkey of the Gilkey Organization and a representative of some of the large DR/GR land-owners,
· Brenda Brooks, Executive Director of the CREW Land and Water Trust, and
· Cullum Hasty, active in Bonita Springs planning, environmental and river preservation matters, among other activities.
Staff informed the Committee that they were still working on the scope of work and other terms of the contact with Dover Kohl & Partners. Once the contract is finalized they expected the consultant to gather information for about two months, to interview all the major stakeholders and then to plan an extensive Charette, probably during April 2008. The Charette would permit all interested Lee County residents and businesses and other to participate in a discussion of the alternative policies and plans that the consultants had identified for the DR/GR area.
The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet twice per month throughout the first half of 2008.
On December 4th the BOCC held its second and final public hearing on the two moratorium ordinances that were tentatively adopted on September 18th… one affecting changes in the Lee County Comprehensive Plan for properties within the DR/GR and the second impacting DR/GR rezoning applications, mainly for new mines. The ECCL and the coalition of environmental and growth management groups that have long worked together on DR/GR matters testified in support of both moratoriums while many representatives of the DR/GR landowners and miners spoke in opposition or in favor of limiting them. The Board voted unanimously to adopt both moratoriums for a period of one year, ending on September 10, 2008.
On September 18th the BOCC voted unanimously to approve the following rezoning moratorium for a period of one year: “Do not accept new rezoning applications and do not process the ones that are already submitted but insufficient”.
There are three pending mine applications in the County’s files that are sufficient. They are:
The Estero Group (see status below)
Ft. Myers Harper Mine, and
The Ginn proposal.
Six additional rezoning applications for mining are insufficient and therefore will be delayed for one year. According to Tim Jones, County Land Use attorney, such moratoriums could exceed one year for mining applications that don’t seek authority to mine aggregate products, rock and sand.
In addition the BOCC voted in favor of a Comprehensive Plan moratorium limited to one year and excluding “The Fountains” project comprehensive plan proposal from the moratorium. The Board could consider extending both moratoria after one year, except as it relates to aggregate mining, should that be necessary.
On October 23rd the BOCC conducted their first public hearing on the moratorium ordinances, but took no action on them.
On December 18th, 19th and 20th the Strategic Aggregate Review Task Force held its first of four statewide meetings in Tampa. On the 19th the Lee County Community Development Department and a representative of the Corkscrew Road Rural Community were asked to testify to the Task Force. In addition the Task Force organized itself, were briefed on the FDOT Strategic Aggregate Study completed last spring and heard from representatives of state regulatory agencies, the mining, transportation and construction industries and other local government and environmental groups.
Mary Gibbs, Lee County Director of Community Development told the Task Force about the County’s DR/GR planning effort and the moratoria that the BOCC had just adopted. Kevin Hill of the Corkscrew Road Rural Community urged the Task Force to continue local government authority to regulate and permit mining activities within their jurisdiction and to focus on helping counties with high quality aggregate to develop aggregate supply plans for their jurisdiction while taking into account the impact mining has upon the area’s water supply, environment and habitat, transportation facilities and upon the neighboring communities. During the public input session Don Eslick of the ECCL reiterated these points while noting that the FDOT Aggregate Study found that Lee County limestone is not as hard as that desired by FDOT for road building.
The Task Force will next meet in Miami on January 8th and 9th. ECCL encourages its members and representatives of the interested environmental and growth management organizations to attend and speak out at this meeting inasmuch as it is the last one to be held in South Florida.
Legislation enacted earlier this year by the Florida Legislature established a “Strategic Aggregates Review Task Force” to meet throughout the state in order to develop a legislative program that will insure that Florida will continue to have an adequate supply of aggregate for road-building and other purposes.
On November 16th several ECCL members and other groups concerned about mining in the DR/GR met with Richard Grosso, a member of the Task Force to discuss our concerns and to provide him with a tour of the DR/GR, its existing mines and the many proposed mine sites.
In response to a 2006 Federal Court decision having some potential for limiting aggregate mining in the Lake Belt mining area of Miami-Dade County, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) hired some geological consultants to study the current and future supply of aggregate for road-building and other purposes throughout the state of Florida. The consultants submitted their report to the Department in March 2007.
This report became the rallying cry for the Florida legislature to consider legislation that would have transferred most approvals for aggregate mining from Counties and Municipalities to the State. This version of the legislation failed but the legislature did pass legislation, approved by Gov. Crist, which limits all local government moratoriums on aggregate mining to one year and established a Strategic Aggregates Review Task Force to study the issue and make a recommendation to the State prior to the 2008 legislative session.
The following summary of the report’s assessment of the Lee County aggregate supply was distributed to the County Commissioners in time for the October 23rd Hearing on the pending Moratorium Ordinances:
“The Strategic Aggregates Study completed by the natural resource consulting firm, Lampl Herbert Consultants, for FDOT in March 2007 is consistently cited as the reason why the Florida Legislature should enact legislation limiting the ability of local governments throughout Florida to authorize and regulate rock mining within their boundaries.
While this report paid scant attention to natural resource and environmental protection….the reasons why communities and local governments closely reviewed all rock mining applications, the geologically certified study provides considerable evidence that Lee and Collier Counties are not the long-term answer to FDOT’s aggregate needs should Lake Belt aggregate production be reduced.
In this regard the studies found:
Except for the Rinker Mining Complex on Alico Road the other Lee County mines do not produce the high quality “certified aggregate” that FDOT and other road builders need.
“With the exceptions of a few mines 40 miles north of Tampa and one in Fort Myers, rock found in most mines throughout the rest of Florida is too soft or otherwise unsuitable for aggregate applications.”
“The Rinker Mine is significant for this area because it is able to produce certified aggregates for FDOT use while other mines produce limerock and some commercial aggregates. The original planners for the Rinker Mine located it in an area of unusually hard rock within the Tamiami Limestone. For the most part, the Tamiami Limestone is soft throughout its range, and the only crushed stone materials that can be made from this resource are limerock and fill.”
They further state that for the most part Tamiami Limestone….that which is in Lee and Collier Counties… is soft throughout its range…thus is only good for limerock and fill.
“The limestone resources in Collier and Lee Counties are in the Tamiami Limestone which is generally softer and less durable than the Miami Limestone found in the Lake Belt. Hard and durable resources have been found and exploited in both counties; however, but the available reserves are dwindling and mine sites may be expected to be restricted by land use and environmental plans. “
Thus Lee and Collier Counties are not the answer to FDOT’s problems, if indeed; the Lake Belt mines cannot continue to produce at their planned levels.
On the other hand two central and northern Florida Limerock “Resource Areas” contain areas of hard limerock that, if developed into megamines, could, over time, replace any lost FDOT quality aggregate production in the Lake Belt area.
Hernando, Sumter and Citrus County Resource Areas
“The Hernando, Sumter, and Citrus County area has reserves of durable rock from the Suwannee, Ocala and Avon Park Limestone formations…
“Several regional supply mines are operating in this area with truck hauling to the Orlando and Tampa markets. However, with rail improvements, highly efficient mega-mines could be developed in the next several decades.”
The Taylor and Dixie County Resource Area
“This area has high potential as a limestone resource area because of the presence of hard rock and the rural and undeveloped character of the area.”…
“The Florida Geological Survey, Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey will be mapping this area over the next two years…
“If the reserves are present in this area, then a “Lake Belt North” scenario could be developed to include several mega-mines.”
“Taylor County is one of the few places in Florida with mineral resources that are potentially of comparable quality to the Lake Belt and has deposits with characteristics making them viable for
large scale, highly efficient production.”
We urge the Aggregate Task Force to focus on planning for the areas of the state with great potential for high quality aggregate and on upgrading our port and rail facilities so that more quality aggregate can be imported rather than usurping the responsibility of all Florida’s local governments regarding this product.
As the following table indicates commercial construction in Estero continues unabated in spite of the residential construction slowdown. At present there are at least 38 commercial projects under construction or just completed in Estero.
They are the following types of projects:
Eleven (11) are office buildings,
Nine (9) are freestanding retail buildings,
Nine (9) are shopping centers or multi-tenant retail buildings,
Three (3) are freestanding banks,
Four (4) are freestanding restaurants,
One (1) is a superstore (Target), and
One (1) is a hotel (Hyatt).
Twenty-one of the 38 projects plan to be open in time for most, if not all, of the 2007-08 “Season”. They are identified in the table in bold print.
Seven (7) are office buildings,
Six (6) are freestanding retail buildings,
Three (3) are shopping centers or multi-tenant retail buildings,
One (1) is a freestanding bank,
Three (3) are freestanding restaurants,
One (1) is a superstore (Target), and
Seventeen of the 38 projects have been started more recently and will be completed later in 2008. They are composed of:
Four (4) are office buildings,
Three (3) are freestanding retail buildings,
Six (6) are shopping centers or multi-tenant retail buildings,
Two (2) are freestanding banks,
One (1) is a freestanding restaurant, and
One (1) is a hotel (Hyatt).
November building permits of all types continued at a slow pace, especially residential permits.
The value of commercial buildings permitted in Estero during November totaled $3 million. Nonetheless during the first eleven months of 2007 Estero’s total commercial permits are valued at $155.5 million. Estero’s commercial permits during all of 2006 totaled $184.7 million. (All figures are exclusive of the underlying land). It looks like 2007 will be Estero’s second highest commercial development year.
The major projects that contributed to the eleven month total are:
During November only 12 housing units with a value of $3.25 million were permitted in Estero. Year to date 428 housing units with a value, exclusive of land, of $121.2 million have been issued. This slowdown in construction of new homes should help reduce the inventory of unsold new homes constructed in Estero in 2005.
The following table shows how the first eleven months of 2007 compares with the same period during the prior seven years:
Annual TotalHousing Units
Building Value of Units
AverageBuilding Value Per Unit
Percentage of Single Family Units
Not only are the 2007 total housing units below all prior years, they equal only 30% of the quantity during the first eleven months of 2002, the season immediately following the tragedy of 9/11/2001 and the third lowest year.
In spite of the decline in the number of housing units permitted thus far this year, the average building value, excluding the land beneath it, continues to increase, up 9% from the prior high set last year and more than double (up 101%) the average in 2000, in spite of a slight decline in the share of more expensive single family homes.