To the editor:
In the nearly 15 years that I have lived on Pine Island, I have attended zoning hearings and have been before the zoning board several times. I have learned how the system works and have seen some folks try to "work the system."Developers are not necessarily a "friend" to our community, especially when their goal is to put something here that residents do not want or need. Over the years, many developments have been denied for the negative impact that they would have on our quaint non-commercial island community.
The Pine Island Plan and Lee County Zoning are here to help protect us from would be developers doing anything they want, anywhere they want, just to make money. When someone applies for a zoning change, we as a community need to look carefully at what the actual intent is and what the potential outcome may be from such a change.
With regard to the latest application for a commercial zoning change in St. James City, I think that a lot of folks were completely unaware of and surprised to learn the details and possible ramifications involved. The application was for "conventional rezoning" of both commercial and agricultural property all to a CC zoning. CC zoning allows a myriad of commercial uses (not only gas stations) and once in place, we as a community are subject to the will of the property owner to do whatever they please there, within the broad limitations of CC zoning. The existing commercially zoned parcel is directly on Stringfellow Road and was zoned to allow only low intensity uses such as office space.
The agricultural property in question provided a necessary buffer between the light commercial property and surrounding single family homes. The re-zoning request was to eradicate the buffer zone provided by the agricultural property and to convert both parcels to high intensity commercial. Much of this rezoning was completely unnecessary for the purpose of a gas station / convenience store (as was purported to be the intended use) and the actual potential uses of the property once rezoned could have a devastating impact on our community from the standpoint of noise, light and other forms of 24-hour pollution as well as traffic congestion and safety issues. It is important to note that if the developer had only the intention of putting up a gas station, a commercial planned development application (as recommended by the county) would have been appropriate and if properly submitted, might have actually passed through the initial hearing process. This however, was not the case. A gas station was never even remotely the guaranteed result of this developer's ambitious rezoning request and the county zoning staff had no choice but to deny the application.
Regarding the idea for a gas station at this St. James City location, I do oppose the concept. The reasons being that it would be a 24-hour source of noise and light pollution to a quiet residential neighborhood. It would provide a new place for the late night "riff-raff" that currently hangs out around the Circle K and requires the constant presence of the Lee County Sheriff and because Bokeelia and St. James City residents all drive through the center on a regular basis. If we need a second gas station on Pine Island, then we need it located at the island center where it is more likely to succeed and is convenient for all Pine Island residents.
St. James City