FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community meeting set for Pine Island Plan
Fort Myers, FL, Sept. 18, 2015 — Lee County District 1 Commissioner John Manning and county staff invite Pine Island residents and stakeholders to attend a public meeting Wednesday, Oct. 14, for a presentation of the preliminary draft of the Pine Island Lee Plan Amendments.
At the direction of the Board of County Commissioners, amendments to the Lee Plan and Land Development Code have been drafted that may limit potential liability from current and anticipated land use and property rights cases brought by Pine Island landowners while also preserving the unique coastal rural character of the Pine Island community.
The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church,10360 Stringfellow Road, St. James City. After a short staff presentation, the public is invited to ask questions and offer input on the proposed amendments. In addition to staff, the county’s consultants from the fields of traffic engineering, planning, hurricane evacuation and legal will be present.
To view the preliminary draft document, visit www.leegov.com/dcd/GPIPlanUpdate. Also available at the website are an overview of the plan, explanation of the process and replies to frequently asked questions. Additional questions can be directed to email@example.com.
· In late October or early November, the final preliminary draft amendments will be presented to the Board of County Commissioners at a public meeting for authorization to proceed with the proposed amendments through the public hearing process.
· If commissioners provide authorization, a formal Lee Plan Amendment case will be created and the Plan Amendments will proceed through the public hearing process, most likely early in 2016.
· The Lee Plan amendment process includes (at a minimum) one public hearing before the Lee County Local Planning Agency, one public transmittal hearing before commissioners, and a final public adoption hearing before commissioners.
· The Land Development Code Amendments will be presented at public hearings to the Lee County Executive Regulatory Oversight Committee, the Land Development Code Advisory Committee, the Local Planning Agency, and two public hearings before the Board.
Contact: Betsy Clayton, A.P.R.
Lee County Government
Pine Island Community Plan Update
A presentation of the preliminary draft of the Pine Island Lee Plan Amendments will be made. The public is invited to ask questions and offer input on the proposed amendments. In addition to staff, the county’s consultants from the fields of traffic engineering, planning, hurricane evacuation and legal will be present.
Background and Overview of the Project
The Greater Pine Island Community Plan was adopted under Goal 14 of the Lee Plan in 1994 as a mechanism to:
•manage future growth on and around Greater Pine Island;
•maintain the island's unique natural resources, character and its viable and productive agricultural community; and
•ensure that island residents and visitors have a reasonable opportunity to evacuate when a hurricane strike is imminent.
Prior to formal adoption of Goal 14, the County adopted development regulations applicable to Pine Island (810/910 Rule). Between 1994 and 2010, additional Lee Plan amendments and Land Development Code provisions were adopted to implement these goals. Some of these provisions include regulations pertaining to development once traffic reaches a certain level and reduction in density on certain Pine Island property.
In 2003, the County redesignated lands classified as Rural on the Future Land Use Category Map to a new category called Coastal Rural. In doing so, the County reduced the allowable density on Pine Island property designated Rural from one dwelling unit per acre to one dwelling unit per ten acres. In 2007, the allowable density for property located in the Coastal Rural category was further limited from one unit per ten acres to one unit per seventeen acres. Under both Ordinances (2003 and 2007), property owners could achieve higher densities (1du/acre in 2003 and 1du/2.7 acres in 2007), if they convey certain property rights, restore native habitat, preservation, or agree to continue agricultural uses on their property.
In 2009, Lee County was sued by eight property owners under the Bert Harris Act. The plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that the County’s adoption of Coastal Rural regulations inordinately burdened their property. The first case to go to trial was Cammilot Partners, LLC, vs. Lee County (Case No: 09-CA-005630). On July 15, 2014, the Court ruled against Lee County finding the County liable for the damages resulting from the Coastal Rural regulations under the Bert Harris Act. Prior to the trial on damages, the County reached a settlement with the Plaintiff.
The damage claims for all eight lawsuits are approximately $10,000,000, excluding interest and any attorneys' fees and costs. The eight lawsuits and the approximate $10,000,000 in claims represent only 180 acres out of the approximate 7,400 acres of land that was reclassified as Coastal Rural. In addition to the pending eight lawsuits, the County received some 50 additional Notices of Claim under the Bert Harris Act. To date, those lawsuits have not been filed. While certain defenses and challenges to those claims are available, the potential liability the County could exceed $100,000,000.
As a result of the Cammilot decision, the County Attorney’s Office and outside legal counsel briefed the Board of County Commissioners during their February 17, 2015 workshop. At that time, the Board was informed of revisions to the Lee Plan and Land Development Code to limit the potential damages. On March 17, 2015, the Board directed County Staff, including the County Attorney’s Office, outside legal counsel, and expert consultants, to review the current LDC and Lee Plan and bring forward proposed amendments that would limit potential liability from current and anticipated land use and property rights cases brought by Pine Island landowners; and preserve the unique coastal rural character of the Pine Island community.
The four guiding principles of the Greater Pine Island Plan revisions are:
•Preserve Greater Pine Island’s unique character
•Address Pine Island’s limited vehicular access, Coastal High Hazard Area & environmental sensitivity
•Minimize legal liability for existing policies & land use regulations
•Re-examine Coastal Rural FLU, 810/910 Rule, & Pine Island TDR Program
Following the March 17th Board meeting, the County Attorney’s Office, Traffic Consultants, Planning Consultants, and outside legal counsel conducted research regarding traffic, roadway capacity, hurricane evacuation, financing mechanisms for purchase of development rights, transfer of development rights, and development planning and analyzed a number of potential legal and planning issues. In June 2015, with the four guiding principles above, a preliminary draft of proposed LDC and Lee Plan Amendments was prepared and designed to strengthen and improve the Pine Island regulations.
On June 9, 2015, the County’s consultants and Staff met with a small group of Pine Island residents and business leaders to review the proposed Amendments. The group of residents and leaders included Kathy Malone, Phil Buchanan, Noel Andres, Dan Honc, Mike Downing, Mike Dreichorn, and Bob Elder. Following that meeting, the County Attorney’s Office received their questions, comments, and suggested changes.
The County’s consultants met again with the working group on July 13th to review a second draft of the proposed amendments and discuss those amendments in further detail. Subsequent to that meeting, the County Attorney’s office received some additional recommended changes and incorporated those changes where appropriate.
•Preliminary draft of the Pine Island Lee Plan amendments
•Preliminary draft of the Pine Island Land Development Code amendments
•Existing Pine Island Comprehensive Plan provisions under Lee Plan Goal 14
•Existing Pine Island specific Land Development Code (Chapter 33, Article III)
The Process Moving Forward
On October 14, 2015, Commissioner Manning, members of the County Planning Staff, the County Attorney’s Office, Traffic Consultant, Planning Consultants, and outside legal counsel will hold a town hall-type meeting to review the preliminary draft and receive comments and suggested changes from residents on Pine Island. The meeting will begin at 5:30 pm at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church, 10360 Stringfellow Rd, St. James City, FL 33956.
In late October, the final preliminary draft amendments will be presented to the Board of County Commissioners during a public hearing. At that meeting, County Staff will request authorization to forward the proposed amendments through the public hearing process.
If authorization is provided by the Board, a formal Lee Plan Amendment case will be created and the Plan Amendments will proceed through the public hearing process. The Lee Plan amendment process includes (at a minimum) one public hearing before the Lee County Local Planning Agency, one public Transmittal hearing before the Board, and a public adoption hearing before the Board. The Land Development Code Amendments will be presented at public hearings to the Lee County Executive Regulatory Oversight Committee, the Land Development Code Advisory Committee, the Local Planning Agency, and two public hearings before the Board.
Note: Changes in the proposed amendments may be presented by residents or Board/Committee members at any of the aforementioned hearings. It is anticipated that the complete public hearing process for adoption of these amendments will not occur until the end of 2015, potentially the beginning of 2016.
If you have questions, comments, or would like to suggest additional changes, please send your suggestions and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.