Estero Development Report
Volume 5, Number 10
Issued February 2006
Edited by ECCL--the Estero Council of Community Leaders
Opportunities for Citizen Participation
In Protecting Estero's Quality of Life
Thursday, March 2nd
Technical Advisory Committee of the Metropolitan Planning
Organization Meeting re Lee County Road Plans
Planning Commission Building, 1926 Victoria Avenue, FM
Thursday, March 2nd
Examiner hearing on the Argonaut Chevrolet Dealership Zoning
application. This 20.6 acre property is located just
southwest of the I-75 Corkscrew Road Interchange
Floor Hearing Room, 1500 Monroe Street, FM
Roadway Landscape Advisory Committee Meeting
Community Development Building,
Monroe Street, 3rd Floor Conference Room
Wednesday, March 8th
Design Review Committee review of Mobil Station at Paradise
Shoppes; Meadows of Estero; Coconut Point and Estero Town
Center at The Vines and Coconut Crossings located on the
northwest corner of US 41 and Coconut.
full agenda at
Community Center at Rapallo
Council of Community Leaders Meeting on a wide variety of
community issues …open to the public, see the agenda at
Clubhouse at Rapallo
Monday, March 13th
Community Planning Panel regarding East Broadway Residential
Development (17 single family homes) and the Fountain Lakes
Professional Office Building, just south of the Fountain
Lakes entrance drive. See the full agenda at
Fire Rescue District Board Meeting
United Methodist Church -- Founder's Hall
Friday, March 17th
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Meeting on Lee
County Road Plans
Planning Commission Building, 1926 Victoria Avenue, FM
Examiner hearing on the Camargo 10 rezoning application. The
property is located on the northwest corner of US 41 and
Pelican Sound Boulevard.
Floor Hearing Room, 1500 Monroe Street, FM
Thursday, March 30th
Examiner hearing on the Cypress View CPD zoning application.
This 10 acre property is located on both sides of the
intersection of Estero Parkway and Cypress View Drive
Floor Hearing Room, 1500 Monroe Street, FM
To learn more about Estero and its growth management efforts
view the new website of:
Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP);
Estero Civic Association (ECA);
Estero Design Review Committee (EDRC), and
Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL)
www.esterofl.org The site is still in formation.…Your suggestions for improvement are most welcome.
Last year, when it was discovered that $10 million had been
earmarked within the Federal Transportation Authorization bill for a
study of an I-75 Interchange at Coconut Road in Estero, why didn’t
some Congressperson step forward to take credit for having added it
to the bill?
Even after six months have passed no member of the US House or
Senate has yet taken responsibility for making this money available
to the Southwest Florida region. Why?
On the other hand both our Congressman Connie Mack and
Congressman Don Young, Chairman of the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, have written the Lee County
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to advise that the $10
million cannot be used for I-75 or other planned improvements.
Further, they contend that if the money is not accepted the region
may suffer a reduction in future Federal Transportation funding.
Why are they so adamant about the use of the funds, while
refusing to tell us how and why the $10 million was earmarked for
this unplanned project in the first place?
Let’s review some recent events. At the September 23, 2005
meeting of the MPO a recommendation of the MPO’s Technical Advisory
Committee, supported by testimony from both SWFTI, a private sector
Transportation lobby group, and the City of Bonita Springs sought to
amend the 2020 Transportation Plan to include a Coconut Road/I-75
Interchange to satisfy Federal requirements necessary for the $10
million to be appropriated by Congress.
This motion was defeated by the MPO in order to prevent this
unplanned project from competing with projects already in the
financially constrained 2020 plan, because another $80 million would
be required to complete an Interchange and its related projects.
In addition, the MPO directed its staff to delete the Interchange
and any related projects from the 2030 Plan scheduled to be reviewed
and approved by the MPO in December.
Finally, the MPO voted to write a letter to the Congressional
delegation thanking them for their help and asking them to redirect
the $10 million to help finance the widening of I-75. MPO Chairman
Albion waited for two months, until December 21, 2005, before
sending this letter? Why the long delay?
At the November 18th meeting of the MPO’s Technical Advisory
Committee (TAC), the City of Bonita Springs urged TAC to add the
Coconut Road/I-75 Interchange projects to the proposed 2030
Transportation Plan. TAC agreed and the following projects were
added to the proposed 2030 Plan: a four lane road connecting the
Interchange from the west, the Interchange itself, a bridge over
I-75, an extension of Coconut Road to the proposed CR 951 and an
interchange at CR 951 and Coconut Road, all at a cost of about $100
Mysteriously, a note was added to the Coconut Road extension
project that deleted a restriction that had been in the 2020 plan
stating, “No access between I-75 and CR 951”.
Who sought to make this change which is designed to open up the
adjacent land on the east side of I-75 for development when it is
well known that CR 951 has been planned as a very limited access
road in order to prevent development in this environmentally
sensitive and water rich area?
Why did the State, County, MPO and Regional Planning staff
members who make up this committee support such a major change in
county development policy?
Why was this change not noted for the MPO itself when they
considered this issue at their December meeting? Who was
representing the landowners at this meeting? What agreements have
been made among the City of Bonita Springs, the County and/or the
State and the landowners that would cause the staff of these public
bodies to support development in this area? A review of the minutes
of this meeting provides no answers to these questions.
Fortunately the MPO rejected all the Coconut/I-75 Interchange
projects and the language permitting development east of I-75 when
it approved the 2030 Transportation Plan at its December meeting.
Commissioner John Albion wrote an opinion piece that was
published by both the Naples Daily News and the News Press inferring
that the MPO’s rejection of the $10 million for the Coconut/I-75
Interchange would somehow deny FGCU the funds it needs to create a
Transportation Management Center that will use “Intelligent
Transportation Systemssensors in the road and other noninvasive
gadgetry (to) collect information and send it to the Management
The Federal authorization for the $10 million included in the
federal authorization act, H.R. 3---366, number 462, says under its
Project Description, “Coconut Rd. interchange I-75/Lee County” This
language would appear to limit the use of the $10 million to the
Coconut Road Interchange, the studies necessary to justify it, plan
it, design it, etc. It says nothing about construction of a
Transportation Management Center or the other uses about which
Commissioner Albion speaks.
When asked if the September and December votes of the MPO would
deny funding to FGCU for a Transportation Management Center, the
staff of the MPO responded that these MPO votes had done nothing to
deny FGCU funding for such a center.
Where is the funding for the FGCU Transportation Management
Center coming from? What private agreements have been made between
FGCU and the Congressmen regarding the use of the $10 million?
On February 7th Dr. William C. Merwin, President of FGCU,
published a Guest Commentary in the Bonita Daily News that states,
“The FGCU transportation management center that would be built at
the Coconut Road interchange”. What does Commissioner Albion know
about the funding for the Management Transportation Center that has
not been told to the public? Why hasn’t this information been made
public during the six months that this issue has been publicly
To my knowledge this is the first public disclosure of this part
of the “private” plan for the interchange. This disclosure helps to
answer the question as to why the University has supported the
interchange so strongly from the beginning. But it raises several
important questions that the members of the MPO should know before
addressing this question once again as advocated by Commissioner
Albion and President Merwin.
Where at the Coconut/I-75 Interchange will the Transportation
Management Center be located? Will it be located on the east side of
I-75 in environmentally sensitive land?
Is the Transportation Center going to be the lever by which
development east of I-75 is opened in spite of all the efforts of
the County to designate it as a Density Reduction Groundwater
Recharge Area and use of large amounts of tax money (2020 Funds) to
acquire land in order to protect our future water supply?
How big a structure are we talking about? How is the Center to be
financed? Is there an agreement with the Congressmen that the
Federal government will fund this facility? Is there an agreement
that the landowners will contribute land and funding to the
University for development of the Center?
What other incentives have been offered by the landowners to the
University, the County, the State and the City of Bonita Springs in
exchange for opening up this land for rezoning and intensive
When all these questions have been answered I believe people will
see the proposal for what it is….a development proposal, not an
traffic improvement proposal. It would not be surprising if by 2030
the proposal would create more traffic from new development east of
I-75 than any relief the interchange might provide to either Bonita
Beach Road or Corkscrew Road.
For me the Interchange is not the issue, it the deceptive use of
the $10 million carrot and the interchange proposal to open up the
environmentally sensitive land east of I-75 between Bonita Beach
Road and Corkscrew Road for intensive development.
During January Estero's housing development continued but at a
much slower pace. A total of 75 housing units were permitted during
the month. This is not too surprising inasmuch as 909 housing units
were permitted in Estero during the last four months of 2005.
Estero’s many housing developers can only build units so fast.
The following table shows how January 2006 compares with the same
period during the prior six years:
Total January Housing Units
Building Value of Units
Average Building Value Per
Percentage of Single Family
As the above table shows the January 2006 average building value
ranks second during the seven year period in spite of the small
percentage (26.7%) of units that are single family homes.
The value of commercial buildings permitted in Estero during
January totaled $13.4 million. Three major projects contributed to
that total: $9.1 million in the Coconut Point Town Center; $950
thousand for the Walgreens Drug Store in Paradise Shoppes (northwest
corner of US 41 and Williams Road) and $1.4 million for the Barkis
Car Wash south of the Corkscrew Village Shopping Center on US 41.
REMINDER: The residential building value understates the cost of
each residence because it excludes the value of the underlying land.
On February 14th the BOCC asked staff to explore the possibility
of the County purchasing the
former Weeks Fish Camp property. This
property is located just north of the Coconut Point Hyatt at the
west end of Coconut Road. It has long been used for commercial
fishing and providing public access boat storage and launching.
In December 2003 it was purchased by the 131 Group and Weeks
Landing LLC for the following proposed uses: 150 residential units;
35,000 square feet of retail space and 300 dry boat slips for public
use. The developers hoped to achieve these densities by Transferring
Development Rights (TDR) from some of their other properties to this
However the developers failed to make any payments on their $8.72
million mortgage on the property since March 2005. As a result the
lender, First Integrity Bank of Minnesota, filed a lawsuit seeking a
ruling that the developer is in default on its mortgage. A
Foreclosure Hearing was held on February 6th at which time the judge
gave the developer 60 days to sell the property or otherwise pay off
Newspaper reports indicate that the D’Jamoos Group has been
negotiating to either partner with the developer or to buy the
The County’s interest is in preserving as much public water
access as possible for Lee County boaters and visitors (now in very
short supply). In recent years there have been few opportunities to
preserve or expand it. Presently Lee County has fifteen public boat
A recent survey of Estero community leaders from the surrounding
communities indicates that there is considerable public support for
County purchase of the property. Thus a meeting has been scheduled
between representatives of these communities and the County staff
responsible for investigating this possibility.
On February 8th the Simon Development Group
presented a preliminary package of site amenities and lighting to
the EDRC. They included one pylon sign in spite of the fact that the
Estero section of the County Land Development Code (LDC) prohibits
such signs. This sign may have been authorized by the zoning on the
property prior to the sign prohibition being adopted by the County.
In addition Simon proposed the use of banners in the Town Center.
Banners are also prohibited by the Estero section of the LDC.
Coconut Point may be exempted from these provisions if the
appearance standards approved by the community and the County
The EDRC was also concerned that none of the lighting at Coconut
Point spilled into neighboring communities. Simon agreed to provide
further information to the EDRC in order to satisfy this concern.
The Committee also noted that the buffer landscaping along US 41
does not appear to meet code and is quite different than the US 41
buffer landscaping around the rest of Coconut Point.
The Simon Development Group announced eight new tenants during
February bring the total to over 80 tenants. The new tenants are:
Walter E. Smythe Furniture
West Coast Surf Shop
Florida Gulf Bank
Simon also announced that the Grand Opening of the Town Center
has been scheduled for November 10th and that the
Muvico Theater is
scheduled to open for business on December 18th. According to press
reports nineteen buildings are now under construction in the
When the North Point Development of Regional
Impact (DRI) was approved in 2004 it was expected to be Estero's
third largest commercial development after
Coconut Point and the
Miromar Mall and
International Design Center. North Point is located
on 102 acres on the northeast corner of Williams Road and US 41.
Oakbrook Properties, the developers of North Point created the
development by purchasing nine parcels of land from six different
owners and financed the effort to gain approval of the DRI and
zoning by the Regional Planning Commission and the County. The
rezoning of the property authorized the owners to develop 550,000
square feet of retail, 120,000 square feet of office, 150
residential units and a 150 room hotel. The project had the support
of the community and the ECPP because the consolidation of the
property permits a well planned development rather than a group of
strip malls along the US 41 side of the property.
On February 6th Oakbrook sold the property to an entity created
jointly by The Lutgert Companies and the Barron Collier Companies,
two major Naples developers. The new owners plan to seek County and
Regional Planning Commission approval for a plan that will greatly
reduce the amount of retail development on the site and replace it
with additional housing units. Specifically they seek to:
- Reduce retail from 550,000 square feet to 250,000 square feet
- Reduce office uses from 120,000 square feet to 100,000 square
- Increase the number of housing units from 150 to 600, while
- Retaining the authority to build 150 hotel rooms.
They have told members of the ECPP that the proposed changes will
reduce the traffic generated by the site by 30 percent. In addition
the “big box” site at the northern end of the site, backing up to
the Corkscrew Village Shopping Center, will be used for housing.
Lutgert and Collier are well known for high end commercial and
residential projects that they have built either separately or
jointly. Some of their past projects include:
• Seventeen luxury high rises on Park Shore Boulevard in North
• All the residential towers in Bonita Bay
• The Promenade
• The Village at Venetian Bay
• The Estuary at Grey Oaks
The developers’ estimate that the rezoning/DRI process will take
about eight months to be followed by site preparation about two
years from now.
In October 2003 the 33 acre parcel on the
southeast corner of Three Oaks Parkway and Corkscrew Road was
rezoned with two large multi-tenant parcels along the roadways and a
large “big box” parcel in the rear. At that time the project was
called “Estero Town Center” but the name was changed to “Estero Town
Commons” at the request of the EDRC when the developer, Kite
Development, presented the first phase of the project to them on
March 9, 2005. During 2005 the EDRC approved two small multi-tenant
buildings along Three Oaks Parkway and a 160,000 sf
On February 8th the EDRC reviewed designs for five outlots along
Corkscrew Road for the second time. The design of these projects is
governed by both the
Estero Town Commons Appearance Standards and
the Corkscrew Main Street Overlay District requirements. Since their
earlier presentation the developer has made the following changes:
- Agreed to use the same color palette as was previously used and
approved for The Shops at Estero Town Commons and the Lowes store.
- Building perimeter landscaping around the drugstore to be located
on Outlot #1. The roof height on this building is now varied with
cornices and cross hatches.
- The sit down restaurant on Outlot #2 would be changed in the same
way as for Outlot #1.
- Outlot #3 is planned to be a bank with less than 5,000 square feet
so a 30 degree pitched roof has been added to the design along with
a covered drive-thru that has been moved back so that it is 75 feet
from Corkscrew Road, both as required by the Corkscrew Main Street
- Outlot #4 will be a fast-food restaurant with less than 5,000
square feet so a 30 degree pitched roof has been added along with a
- Outlot #5 will be a sit down restaurant and has an outdoor seating
area near the preserved tree area on the corner of Three Oaks and
- The view corridors from Corkscrew Road will be planted with pines
and palms and low under-plantings so that the area is attractively
landscaped but passing motorists can still see the attractive
The Committee discussed the developer’s plans for pedestrian
access between the Lowe’s parcel and each outlot. The applicant
agreed to add a partial sidewalk between these projects.
The EDRC expressed an opinion that the architecture of the
buildings on the five outlots were not as high quality as that of
the Lowe’s building. The Committee felt, as a group of buildings,
they were bland and boring, too repetitious…that the buildings need
to be diverse and have individual character. After discussion the
applicant agreed to expand the color palette and to review the
building’s architecture in order to add some changes to provide the
diversity the Committee is seeking. For further information see the
Estero Town Commons section of the EDRC website at
During February the developers of
Park Commons announced that Opus Corporation, a large Minnesota
based real estate developer, will soon be opening a regional office
in this Corkscrew Road development. About 75 to 80% of Estero Park
Common’s seven buildings are now leased or occupied. Opus’s first
project in southwest Florida is The Shoppes of Gulf Coast to be
located on the northwest corner of Alico Road and Ben Hill Griffin.
On February 20th the BOCC approved zoning
for the Cypress Shadows development, a 770 unit golf community
located on 350 acres along the south side of Corkscrew Road west of
Bella Terra and east of
Wildcat Run. When fully constructed Cypress
Shadows will contain 100 single family homes and 670 multi-family
The property is located in a very environmentally sensitive area.
Consequently the County and the South Florida Water Management
District required the developer to permanently set aside 139.5 acres
on-site and to purchase 160 acres that will become publicly owned
land (just south of Wildcat Run) for perpetual preservation. The
Water Management District had reviewed and approved the site plan
prior to BOCC consideration and approval.
The BOCC added a condition to the zoning that would prohibit any
light intrusion onto preserve land.
During the last two years the Cypress Shadows developers had made
three presentations to the ECPP. At the most recent hearing in
August 2005 the developer told the Panel that they:
- had abandoned plans to use blasting on the project
- have reduced the height of buildings from 5 to 4 stories in
response to concerns previously expressed by the Panel
- plan to build a concrete wall and install landscaping to make
certain the golf maintenance building will not be visible from
On February 8th the EDRC
reviewed plans for the Orchid Bay North residential towers at the
West Bay Club, located at the west end of Williams Road in Estero.
This project will consist of two towers, located on 9.5 acres about
one-half mile north of the Jasmine Bay towers that are now under
construction. Sixty percent of the tract for the buildings will be
reserved for open space.
Each of the buildings will be 20 stories high and include 116
units including 8 penthouses. In addition each building will have a
live-in manager and guest suites. The Estero Bay side of each tower
will be heavily landscaped in order to create a tranquil place for
building residents and guests. The buildings will be served by a
three level garage with one level below grade and will be
constructed with flood resistant materials. The project will not
require any blasting.
The buildings will be painted with three colors – green/gray,
honeydew yellow and a white crown. Committee advised Applicant to be
cautious when choosing the shades of green.
Once Orchid Bay North is underway four of the five West Bay Club
towers will be under construction.
During 2004 in cooperation with the ECCL an informal West Bay
homeowners group negotiated with the developers of West Bay for
several months to resolve concerns raised by the developer’s desire
to restore three high rise towers to the zoning of the property. The
parties reached an agreement just prior to the Hearing Examiner's
Hearing on January 19, 2005.
As a result of the homeowner's efforts and the West Bay developer's
willingness to negotiate, the following changes were agreed to and
presented to the Hearing Examiner as agreed zoning conditions:
- The number of high rise towers to be authorized in West Bay would
be reduced from the six (6) to five (5);
- This reduction would occur in Area 3, the high rise site that the
developers sought to restore to its original zoning;
- The total number of housing units authorized for the West Bay Club
project is reduced by 105 units from 1,121 to 1,016.
In addition the West Bay developers agreed to several changes sought
by the homeowners group that would not be appropriate for a zoning
On March 21, 2005 the BOCC approved the rezoning of West Bay Club
including the conditions cited above. Residents from
West Bay Club, ECPP and the ECCL testified in support
of the rezoning and the developer’s willingness to help finance a
solution for the existing traffic safety problems at the
intersection of Williams Road and US 41. The BOCC participated
actively in this discussion and expressed their concern but took no
action since the traffic problem is not increased by the rezoning
since West Bay Club was originally zoned for a larger number of
units, and thus would create more traffic, than are now authorized.
Taylor Woodrow, a major housing developer, has purchased the
Estero Palms development. Estero Palms is a 32 unit single family
residential community located on Block Lane just west of River Ranch
Road. During February the developer launched a major advertising
campaign for the development.
Estero Fire Rescue responded to a record 2,951 emergency calls
during 2005, 259 more responses than the previous year, or an
increase of 9.6%. Thus far during 2006, however, the district has
seen a drop in call volume from the previous year. The first two
months of 2005 generated 592 responses, while the first two months
of this year have generated 555 responses; down 6.25%. As the
population of Estero continues to grow, it is unknown why the call
volume would be declining, but it is a welcome surprise to the
Estero Fire Rescue reached a milestone last fall with the opening
Coconut Point Fire Station on Sweetwater Ranch Boulevard,
across from Fountain Lakes. It was determined in the late 1990s that
four new, strategically located fire stations would be required to
provide appropriate protection to all the residents and businesses
of the district, which was just beginning to experience tremendous
growth. While the growth has been even more explosive than
anticipated, the completion of the Coconut Point Fire Station, the
acquisition of a new ladder truck last summer, and the hiring and
training of many new firefighters puts Estero Fire Rescue in
position to provide a high level of service for the next several