Commercial growth should be limited
August 18, 2009
To the Editor:
The Lee Plan, the Pine Island Community Plan, and the main tenets of smart growth all agree a) that open green buffer areas should be retained and restored to the extent possible, b) that residential units should be concentrated in so-called “urban areas” each of which should be encouraged to establish its own unique identity, and c) that commercial activities should be integrated into these urban areas to create “mixed use” communities. Shoppers benefit by the convenience of destinations within walking distance of one another, businesses benefit by being close to their customers and by being close to other businesses that draw customers, and communities benefit by inviting more foot traffic which is one of the primary measures of livability.
It was therefore disappointing and surprising to see county planning staff repudiate these principles when they issued CPA 2008-17. As presently written, CPA 2008-17 would effectively wipe out the distinction between what commercial activities could take place in Pine Island’s urban areas versus its coastal rural areas. Implicit in this document is the notion that a barbershop could just as well be located in the outback as in St. James City. Unfortunately, however, if this were adopted, new businesses in coastal rural designed to serve the “day to day” needs of island residents, as CPA 2008-17 specifies, would inevitably draw customers away from existing establishments, rather than attracting new customers from the mainland.
The Greater Pine Island Civic Association proposed language that would avoid these dilemmas. We recommended that “Commercial uses in the coastal rural areas should be limited to uses that promote farming and related rural activities. Such rural uses include (but are not limited to) produce stands, nurseries, farm and feed supply stores, lawn and garden supply, and equestrian facilities.”
Were we to limit commercial development as per GPICA recommendations, Pine Island would further its reputation as desirable destination, appealing to mainlanders and tourists alike: such that anyone who is looking for a landscaping materials, fresh local produce, a hike through a pine flatland or through a restored wetland or simply a drive through an old Florida countryside would think of Pine Island first.