Lee County Hearing Examiner, 1500 Monroe St. , Room 218, Ft. Myers , FL 33902-0398

 

August 27, 2003

 

RE:  Miromar Lakes DRI Development Order Planned Development/DRI NOPC Case number DRI2001-00004 & DCI 2001-00033

 

On behalf of the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, we ask you to deny the request to amend the Miromar Lakes DRI Development order and the Miromar Lakes mixed-use planned development (MPD) zoning.  Additionally we ask that you acknowledge the request for the proposed changes to the Miromar Lakes DRI Development order constitute a substantial deviation from the original development, and therefore warrants further DRI review.  We believe that this rezoning request is remarkably inconsistent with the Lee Plan and incompatible with the University Community designation.  These proposed changes further degrade habitat, rather than provide protection for environmental resources for a variety of endangered and protected species.  These proposals further impair attempts of Florida Gulf Coast University to meets its Environmental Studies mission and commitment to the residents of southwest Florida .  Furthermore, intense development of this area will set a precedent in allowing development to progress eastward into the DR/GR.  We believe that this request must be denied to allow Lee County to meet its obligation to the University and residents of southwest Florida .

 

The proposal would create urban sprawl according to Rule 9J-5.006(5)(g), because: it will be low density”.

It is inconsistent with the following, from the Lee Plan:

 

Goal 18, Policy 18.1.1, and Policy 18.2.2 because it fails to “protects and enhance” or to “support and synergize with” the basic function of the university, and it fails to “focus on scientific research and high technology.

 

The Miromar Lakes DRI petition also request deviations that may lead to more impervious surface and further compress the residential areas beyond limits set forth in the LDC.  These include deviations that reduce width for roads (Section 10-4163), and other deviations (#24) that will allow them to provide alternative means of separation than may include no buffers, fencing or walls between commercial structures. 

The requested deviation would also allow construction of buildings without conforming to the stringent setbacks from bodies of water than current law (LDC Section 34-919(c)1(a). requires. 

 

 

This development fails to meet the needs of “adequate protection of environmental resources in this region.  The proposed design intrudes into lands and waterways necessary for the sustainability and economic stability of the region without providing adequate benefit to the University and community of southwest Florida .  Portions of all the tributaries of the Estero Bay are already listed as impaired on the Verified List of Impaired Waters prepared by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  Additional construction in this region will certainly further impede on the Estero Bay Watershed’s ability to support the region.  Constructing a heliport commercial buildings and residences surrounding another 18-hole golf course in the manner proposed by Miromar Lakes further degrades this habitat for protected native species.  While the suggestion that putting up six-foot fences and providing a wildlife underpass in the center of a gated residential community will provide adequate protection for endangered species may adequately address the law, it does a disservice to the citizens of southwest Florida.  A residential golf course community is not a suitable replacement habitat for the protected black bear and panther that inhabit those lands. The Estero Bay and surrounding Watershed area is a resource that provides hundreds of jobs and millions of tourist dollars annually.  It must be carefully managed to support the long-term economic health of our community.

 

The loss of the opportunity for generations of University students to closely study the unique habitat and the plants and animals that share our ecosystem is priceless.  Florida Gulf Coast University has a mission and commitment to serving the residents of southwest Florida through an environmental studies program of national prestige.  They are working toward that path with the Campus Ecosystem Model, which scientifically examines the lands within and surrounding the University.  Completely encircling Florida Gulf Coast University with gated residential communities essentially removes some of the last remaining environmental resources in south Florida that provide haven for the Florida panther, black bear, gopher tortoise, snail kite and a long list of other rare and endangered species.  Approving a proposal that suggests that developing this habitat into residential lands and simply requiring that “the developers will employ every effort to market the mix of residential housing types proposed for development in Miromar Lakes to accommodate the varying lifestyles of students, faculty, administration other university personnel and employers of the associated support development” will make them affordable to the University community is an attempt to skirt the law.  It violates the spirit of its meaning and does a disservice to the residents of Lee County .  We believe that physical impediments along the roadways that would prevent access to the university are a more realistic demonstration of the level of support and interaction that Miromar Lakes intends to provide to the University community.  For example, the proposed roadway near the entrance to the university that is supposed to offer a southerly access route to the University is located beyond (inside) a proposed gateway.  The residents of Lee County are entitled to expect that approved proposals will meet not only the letter of the law, but also its spirit.

 

Furthermore, recommending approval of this proposal implies consent of constructing CR951 far to the east of Interstate –75.  If this proposal is approved, the implied consent for CR951 would occur long before the results of the commissioned study designed to provide citizen input for recommendations on whether to even construct that major roadway is ever completed and released. 

 

We understand the importance of the rights of individual property owners.  We remind you of your responsibility to all residents of Lee County .  The Miromar Lakes DRI will “increase the current allowable density or intensity of land use” that is supposed to be “discouraged by the county”.  We find that this requests violates the concept of “ University Village ” as specified in the Lee County Comprehensive Plan.  Furthermore we also find no substantive reason for the current proposed modifications to the Lee Plan, other than to set a precedent for changing even more lands east of Florida Gulf Coast University to urban lands. 

 

Please recommend that the BOCC deny this rezoning and implore them to work quickly and diligently with the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation to acquire these lands and put them under conservation in the public domain.

Thank You,

Nora Demers, Secretary for RGMC

P.O. Box 1826

Ft. Myers , FL 33902

President: Responsible Growth Management Coalition

President RGMC

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