Responsible Growth Management Coalition
P.O. Box 1826
Fort Myers, Florida 33902
May 30, 2003
Dear RGMC Member:
The summer heat is upon us and with it the political heat that is threatening the health and integrity of the environment of Southwest Florida. As studies are conducted it is becoming more and more obvious that the quality of our environment determines the quality of our lives. Those of us who live in Southwest Florida, be it by choice or by birth, are fortunate to live in an area chock full of wonderful species of flora and fauna. We revel in the biodiversity of mangroves and cypress domes. The Florida panther and the bald eagle are our neighbors. The wildlife that most people only ever see on television fly over our heads, sometimes even stalking through our neighborhoods. An example of the interaction between humanity and the natural world was made apparent to us in the last few weeks when a panther was photographed near FGCU.
This wonderful biodiversity attracts thousands of people a year to our home. Here they spend their money, fueling our economy. A recent report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that wildlife observation alone brings over $1.6 billion dollars into the state of Florida (For the full text of this study please visit the RGMC website listed above). Protecting our environment is not just an idealistic leaning, though certainly many of us are idealistic. Protecting our environment is good, sensible policy for maintaining our standard of living. It is of utmost importance to those of us who live among these natural treasures to ensure that our very sensible need to grow economically is balanced with a measured responsibility to protect our home’s biodiversity. Our ecology is our bread and butter. Without it there is no growth. Imagine the consequences to our standard of living if the price of water were to double or triple due to the necessity of treatment and desalinization plants.
The pressure is on, however, to pursue growth in a manner that perpetuates greed and ignores responsible growth. Southwest Florida is constantly the focus of what RGMC board member Gene Boyd referred to as “piecemeal annexation” of our sensitive lands. One such example is the Miromar Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA 2001-03). This proposal would change the categorization of approximately twenty-four acres in the DR/GR from rural to urban, allowing for increased density and sprawl. Ironically, these twenty-four acres are close to the area where the panther mentioned earlier was photographed. The RGMC read into the record a prepared statement against this incursion into the DR/GR. Despite the opposition of the RGMC as well as a number of other groups and interested citizens the Board of Lee County Commissioners voted to transmit the proposal to the Department of Community Affairs. Only Commissioner Janes dissented. The RGMC has retained the legal help of Tom Reese to draft a letter to the DCA and continue to fight this needless incursion into the DR/GR.
Now, more than ever, those who are interested in responsible growth must speak in a single voice to demand that policy be based on the greatest interests of the community, not just the short term profit of a few individuals. The RGMC will continue to participate in the further dialogue and planning for the benefit of this vital Density Restricted/Groundwater Resource. Currently I’ve started an on-line discussion about the DR/GR. You can participate in this dialogue by visiting the RGMC discussion board on our web site.
On May 19th I spoke before the Fort Myers City Council regarding proposed text amendments 02-MA-1 and 02-MA-2 to the Comp Plan. These amendments would give the go ahead to the Parker Daniels and Palomino projects to develop lands next to the Six Mile Cypress Slough at higher densities than recommended. The proposed sites are located along an important cypress arm that provides water flow to the slough. Current density is restricted in those areas to one unit per acre. The proposed amendments will increase density to a maximum three units per acre. This density is not an example of responsible growth. It is a significant threat to the already challenged slough, which attracts over fifty thousand visitors a year. It is also a significant threat to important wetlands and uplands outside of the slough that provides habitat for many endangered and protected species. Despite the fact that Commissioner Ray Judah among others offered examples of responsible growth to the Fort Myers City Council, the Council voted to accept the changes. Only Councilman Flanders dissented. Once again the issue is in the hands of the Department of Community Affairs.
Please contact the Department of Community Affairs on these matters. The Miromar project would significantly weaken future attempts to protect the DR/GR from irresponsible development, including an impending Ginn, Corp proposal. The Parker Daniels/Palomino projects threaten the health and quality of what has been called the “Central Park” of Lee County, the Six Mile Cypress slough.
The RGMC’s membership drive is making progress. Many people recognize the importance of emphasizing responsible growth in our community and have expressed a desire to join. This is great news for the RGMC. The more voices we have the louder we speak. Please encourage anyone you know who is interested in the health and vitality of our rich biodiversity, economy and quality of life to join the RGMC. And once again, I encourage all RGMC members to participate by writing letters, dispersing information, even talking to people at the grocery store about responsible growth.
Let those who represent us at all levels of government know when you are displeased with their decisions. It is also important, however, to encourage those who represent us to make responsible growth a priority. This can be done in a positive way by recognizing those who dissent to and those who speak out against the “piecemeal annexation” of our natural legacy, in this instance Commissioners Janes and Judah and Councilman Flanders. Positive reinforcement may encourage these and others to take responsible growth seriously. Our politicians may not be consistent on this issue, but positive feedback from their constituents often this stands out against the complaints that they are inundated with.
For current members please remember to renew your memberships. Your support in the past has helped the RGMC make important progress in promoting responsible growth in our community. Your continued support is vital to the perpetuation of our mission. Recently the RGMC has benefited from some very generous donations. At a time when the economy is questionable and people do not necessarily have the ability to give as they would under better circumstances these donations are greatly appreciated.
Michael Andoscia M.A.