Report from The Matlacha Civic Assoc.:
As we have reported previously, Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane has tasked the Lee County Deputy County Manager to provide coordinated assistance in the Restoration of Matlacha. The Second Meeting of the Restoration group was held in Ft. Myers on April 24, 2023, with 7 county subject area staff present along with almost 25 Islanders and 11 others attending by zoom. The subject area summaries prepared by the staff are attached.
Road construction from the east to the Little Pine Island Bridge begins this week. The pre-existing right-of-way will be maintained. Sheet piling will be installed on both sides of the road, with a concrete cap, to stabilize the road. The cap will not be visible above ground level. The road may be elevated up to 6” but plans are not final.
Utilities will be installed inside the sheet piling, and delivered to properties through cuts in the sheet piling. LCEC is not currently planning to place their power lines underground. Lee County has no say in this. MCA and Islanders will need to lobby LCEC over this wasteful and shortsighted decision.
The road design does not include a Multi-Use Pathway for pedestrians and bicycles, even thought the design for the Little Pine Island Bridge does include multi-use pathways on both sides. The explanation is that these are two separate projects, and the State will not coordinate them. Consideration of the Multi-Use pathway will take place after road construction is completed. This is very disappointing, since planning for the Multi-Use Pathway will be constrained by the current road reconstruction design. MCA has asked to be included as a stakeholder in the road design; however, we have never been given notice of this decision or opportunity for input.
The traffic light crossing signals at Island Seafood Market will be re-installed at the same location. We asked about a crossing signal at Island Avenue and Pine Island Road. Such a signal cannot be added as part of this project. However, Dave Harner promised to have LDOT look into the issue. The Lee County team is well aware of the danger at that intersection. MCA will find out whether some temporary solutions can be obtained from the Sheriff and Lee County.
The Governor has ordered the road construction to be fast-tracked. FDOT hopes the sheet piling is done by the end of the summer, and the road in November. The road will be resurfaced from end to end with markings restored – even the road which has not been damaged in the Hurricane.
In Block No. 1, the trench drain will be replaced with underground sewers. The trench drain for the remainder of the road will be cleaned out and maintained.
The plan during construction is to maintain two-lane traffic around the work. The work will reduce traffic to one lane for 3-4 weeks.
The exact plan for sheet piling at the Little Pine Island Bridge is not complete. For example, Lee County does not know whether the seawall on the two banks of the inlet will encompass the current property lines of the properties on those banks. The LPIB will be constructed next year after the road is stable on each bank.
Lee County is coordinating with Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers to fast-track permitting for re-building properties on Block No. 1. No assurances at this time that owners will be able to re-build their lots out to the property lines.
MCA members at the meeting presented the Resolution of the Association that favors build out of Block No. 1 to the platted property lines. Discussions indicated that re-building over water would result in loss of insurance.
Dave Harner promised to try to set up a joint meeting among Lee County, FDEP, ACOE, and the Islanders as soon as possible to resolve this issue. Resolution of this issue as soon as possible would be a major success which would provide certainty to remaining Islanders regarding the future of the Islands. Nearly all the property owners on Block No. 1 were in attendance.
HISTORIC DISTRICT AND PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT
The Staff went over the standards from the Historic Preservation Board. MCA wants to emphasize that HPB has been cooperative regarding standards since the Hurricane. Be assured, HPB and Lee County are aware that the loss of our historic properties is due to the HPB refusal to allow property owners to raise these homes. Regret, however, is only the first step to restore these properties.
The standards are fairly expressed on the attachments to this report. One discrepancy has to do with contributing properties that were completely lost. HPB earlier stated that such properties could be rebuilt at the original elevation. The attachment is a bit unclear but appears to indicate that contributing properties completely destroyed would need to meet FEMA elevation standards on reconstruction. The Staff promised to obtain an answer on this question.
The MCA Board members present at the meeting emphasized that MCA wants to maintain the historic qualities of Matlacha. The MCA Resolution supports providing government assistance to the contributing and non-contributing properties on Block No. 3 located east of the Little Pine Island Bridge. Owners have little incentive to restore or rebuild those properties which are on lots which are partially underwater. Restoration of the iconic shops across from Blue Dog is unlikely to occur unless potential owners are incentivized. The staffers and MCA must continue to look for funding for such Historic Properties. This is not a new problem. All over the country, historic properties have been restored after disasters with government assistance. These properties are the legacy to the future. This is a priority. MCA needs those property owners to come forward as a group, and assist in this project. Please send an email identifying yourself and your property to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The meeting ended with a round of applause.