After an all-day affair, the Lee County deputy-hearing examiner instructed staff and the Windjammer RV Resort team to submit revised conditions and deviations by Dec. 20, so she can then visit the site and make a recommendation to the Board of Lee County Commissioners.
The hearing was held Thursday due to owner Robert Smokey Smeja wanting to rezone his property on Turtle Trail Lane from a residential multi-family development to a recreational vehicle planned development, Windjammer RV Resort, with a maximum of 200 RV sites.
Russell Schropp, an attorney with Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., began the meeting by explaining the 57-acre property that was originally zoned in 1977. The piece of property is located on the west side of Stringfellow Road at 4500 Turtle Trail Lane.
The hearing was held to rezone from a residential multi-family to recreational vehicle planned development, which already has a development order for the 302 multi-family unit project. The project was approved in 2003 and is still valid today to have a mixture of duplexes.
"The intent of rezoning is to covert the existing to a project we think will develop more quickly and absorb into the market quicker," Schropp said.
He went on to say that the Windjammer RV Resort will be developed with far less impact on the community than a multi-family project.
Throughout the meeting conditions of the Windjammer RV Resort were discussed in great detail, which were followed by many questions.
The first condition Schropp discussed dealt with indigenous preservation.
According to the code "as part of development order approvals, development plans must depict the preservation of and provide an indigenous management plan for the 1.52 acres of wetlands and 7.9 acres of pine flatwoods uplands."
"The issue is whether we should or could develop this area," Schropp said of the indigenous vegetation.
He said the originally submitted plans would utilize the bulk of the indigenous area as storage for boats and trailers.
The issue was brought forth because the applicant was concerned that the area was not sufficient for the RV Park if the indigenous preservation was preserved in its entirety.
"What we worked out essentially was a condition," Schropp said. "Once the park is up and running and have sold units and a waiting list of the use of this maintenance area, could come back and request that we impact a portion of the ingenious area."
Another area of concern dealt with accessory structures in the RV park, which is a deviation. Although these structures are only permitted in non-transient parks, Smeja wants to include it in Windjammer RV Resort, which is imposed as a transient park.
Schropp said individual storage units are a common feature of most recent higher end RV parks. He said staff was concerned that these structures will have vulnerability to winds.
Tony Palermo, senior planner for Lee County, said his judgment for the free standing accessory structures was influenced by Hurricane Charley. He said if the structures are built to code with a limited size, he has no issue with it, and he said the applicant has done a pretty good job in recognizing the issue and coming up with conditions.
They proposed that the storage structure would be located on individual lots with only one per space with a maximum of 10x14 size, they are designed and constructed as modular buildings and they would be installed using applicable codes like the Florida Building Code.
"With that change to the actual scope, I think we addressed the concern of unoccupied storage units," Schropp said.
That issue brought up the topic of Windjammer RV Resort being called a transient or non-transient resort.
Deputy Hearing Examiner Laura Belflower said a transient park is predominately one for less than six months.
"Having an accessory building seems to make you a non-transient park," she said.
John Fredyma, assistant county attorney, said he does not believe deviation is appropriate.
"I think it should be withdrawn," he said, because of the inability to determine the distinction between transient and non-transient parks. "Deviation is not something that allows you to have uses, cannot request uses for deviation."
Belflower said the thing that concerns her the most is the fact that the storage unit appears to be the defining line between transient and non-transient.
"Because the accessory structure is so critical, that goes towards my issue," she said.
Tim Pugh with Source Incorporated said the resort has some aspects of transient and non-transient.
"A motor coach is on wheels, they come and go," he said. "They don't stay more than six months, sounds like transient, but they do own the lots."
He said an individual site can be occupied for six months or less and then the RV is removed from the park. In turn the owners, Pugh said, can rent the lot or lease the lot.
Schropp said the bottom line is they identified it as a transient park because that is what they are shooting for - people come down for a limited period and go to another park for a different period and, hopefully, comes back.
Traffic was also discussed.
Jim Banks, a traffic engineer, provided a comparison report of how much traffic the 302 multi-family units would produce compared to the 200 RV units.
He said the RV park would generate 322 daily trips, 40 of which would occur during a.m. peak hours, and 74 trips during the p.m. peak hours.
A total of 1,683 trips would occur with the 302 units, Banks said, which includes 125 a.m. trips during peak hours and 149 during the p.m. peak hours.
"The RV park would generate 1,361 trips less than multi-family," he said. "This development will result in a significant reduction in the offsite trips."
Banks said the bulk of the survey is based on a transient, motor coach-style resort.
The construction traffic was also addressed - 302 units will generate approximately 250 truck trips for every unit constructed over a 7 to 10-year span compared to 6,000 truck trips for an RV park that will occur over an 18-month to two-year period.
Palermo said, "We as staff have received a lot of public input."
"It is safe to say that it is pretty unified opposition of this zoning," he said. "They do have a lot at stake and it will affect their quality of life. The issues they raise are significant."
A handful of nearby residents spoke during the meeting Thursday to share their concern about Windjammer RV Resort.
Robert Eames, the president of the Pine Island Cove Homeowners Association, said he and the community are opposed to the zoning change from multi-family to RV Status.
"I am adamantly opposed to this development," Eames said. "An RV park right next door to us would have a negative impact on our property values. The RV park would be an eyesore for all of us who would have to look across the canal."
Although the developer has an ambitious plan for the 200 sites, he was concerned what would happen if they did not sell.
"It is our understanding it would turn into a transient park," he said, which would be similar to KOA. "Does he then have a right to do a KOA park, to rent the sites for those who want to stay a week or a month."
Palermo said it could be conditioned to make sure that never happens.
"A beautiful park, no question about it," Eames said about Windjammer. "In reality we fear that will not occur and that instead the plan will turn into something else and will ultimately result in a notch or two below that with transient."
He encouraged the county to deny such a radical change from occurring.
"It just isn't right to treat people this way by suddenly saying that we are going to change it radically from a building type community to a RV park, that is a big stretch," Eames said. "We are willing to support the development order as it exists. You want to put homes and condos in place, that's fine."
Debra Iannuci, president of Pine Island Village Association, also spoke before the examiner. She said on March 17 they held a community meeting forum that resulted in everyone wanting to see a multi-family project and not an RV Park.
"I don't know how Turtle Trail can adapt to these large RVs," she said. "We are really concerned about the traffic issue. It's an impact, its really going to cause a lot of serious problems for us. The traffic is going to be unbelievable."