To the Editor:
Last month, I read a letter to the editor on Dec. 7, 2011, by a Kathy Malone. She had written in on the Matlacha Overlay Plan, which evidently has been the focus of a small group of people in Matlacha and surrounding areas. She goes on to say that the Plan Committee of 10 residents have been working on this over 5 years. I first became aware of "The Plan" a year ago as I happened to read an older copy of the Eagle and saw that they were going to vote on "The Plan" at the Matlacha Civic Association meeting Nov, 16, 2010. I attended the meeting to see what it was about and was amazed that a plan was being voted upon affecting my property and I knew nothing about it. All I heard is how it's going to stop mega mansions from being built. What is a mega mansion? No real details were given at that meeting, however, a vote was taken and all members present for the MCA voted. I have heard that approximately 70 members were present. Now I ask you, "Who are these 70 members?"
Well first of all, I noticed there were a lot of husbands/wives voting, each with an individual vote, but representing one home. Secondly, I noticed that some of the people voting didn't live in Island Harbors, but rather in the historic district of Matlacha and will not be affected by "The Plan." Thirdly, I'm familiar with a few folks from Matlacha Isles who were there and again they voted, but are not affected by "The Plan." I'm not sure if anyone present that voted was from Shoreview, but they also will not be affected by "The Plan."
So who exactly voted for this Matlacha Plan? Of the 70 members present, how many of them own homes in Island Harbors? My best estimate is that perhaps 50 homeowners were represented, but not all live in Island Harbors. Matlacha Civic Association encompasses an area that could include as many as 850 properties. This would mean a very small percentage of Island Harbors landowners voted that evening in favor of the measure. This is quite different than Ms. Malone stating 91.23 percent voted in favor of "The Plan." One must consider all the factors when interpreting statistics.
We chose Matlacha to retire in as it was a quiet setting near water that appeared to allow people to live their lives the way they chose. We didn't want a covenanted neighborhood with all the homes alike. Part of the appeal of Matlacha is the different architecture that has evolved since the original structures were built. With the new growth we have seen our homes increase in value. If the neighborhood were to remain stagnant, property values would again fall. The proposed plan will affect what people may chose in the future as far as building facade, roof style and lot coverages. It will decrease your ability to replace your current structure if destroyed (there's some percentage amount) to its original design. This could be a burden on some folks who do not have the money to redesign of their properties to fit these new guidelines. People buying in the future are going to be reluctant to purchase homes with these strict requirements. Matlacha was developed prior to land use regulations. It has unique lots and buildings and will always need variances for practical use of its properties. At the present time we have that right to apply for a variance and go through the process to possibly obtain such variances as needed. I'm not interested in giving up my rights.
During August, I had the opportunity to meet some of my neighbors and whenever I did, I asked if they knew about the Matlacha Overlay Plan. After knocking on doors, I found only two couples within 500 feet of my home, actually knew about the Matlacha Overlay Plan. A couple others mentioned they had seen something about it, but didn't know what it was about.
Again this year, I read in the Eagle that the MCA would discuss the Overlay Plan as old business at their Nov. 15, 2011, meeting. I invited two of my neighbors to attend with me. They are both Florida residents living in Island Harbors. There were only a few people present (10-12), quite a different scenario than a year ago. After the bridge update, they brought up "The Plan." My neighbors expressed their concern in that they didn't know anything about it and were basically attacked verbally that it was "their responsibility" to have learned about the Overlay Plan. I asked about variances and was basically told there will be no variances allowed. That's why they were making this new plan to avoid giving variances. I again expressed my concerns that the 352 homes affected have not been notified of their property being changed to new standards and the need to individually contact all affected property owners. Several of us had offered this same suggestion a year ago at the 2010 meeting and were basically dismissed as not important and it's too expensive to mail out notifications.
So leaving this meeting, I resolved that we do need to notify as many homeowners as possible. We have done so by handing out notices of how to obtain a copy of the Matlacha Overlay Plan and how to contact the County Commissioners to express their feelings.
At the present time, the Overlay Plan has been deferred by the County Commissioners. I say to all Island Harbor residents find out how this will affect your property and value. Ask a Realtor what this plan does to your value and ability to sell your property in the future. Contact the county for the latest revised copy of the plan (533-8786). Contact the commissioners and let them know your concerns. This will no longer be allowed to be spearheaded through the process of a few people.