Discussions will be held this month concerning the Pine Island Plan, which has been a part of the island for the last 25 years.
In 1988, the Pine Island Plan became a component of the Lee Plan, which is county law. Islander Phil Buchanan said it restricts development on Pine Island Road through Matlacha.
"The Pine Island Plan is the main reason Pine Island has not been turned into concrete and high-rise condominiums and massive shopping centers like the other Florida coasts and off-coast islands," he said.
On Friday, Feb. 22, the Lee County Attorney's Office proposed that the 910 rule should be eliminated and on Wednesday, Feb. 27, the Director of Lee County Community Development advised Buchanan that they were withdrawing the proposal.
"A few minutes ago, the director of Lee County Community Development advised me that they are withdrawing the proposal to eliminate the post-910 milestone density table from the Land Development Code," Buchanan said Wednesday afternoon. "I and others will meet with the county staff and county attorney's office in March to discuss the matter."
There are two main provisions of the Pine Island Plan - the 810 rule and the 910 rule. Buchanan said they both refer to peak hour traffic counts of annual average two-way trips as measured at the sensor near Sandy Hook Restaurant.
"The 810 rule says when the count reaches 810, rezoning that would increase the traffic count, with some minor exceptions, is prohibited," he said.
The 910 rule, which is a part of the Pine Island Plan, addresses the issue of traffic as well. It states that when the traffic count reaches 910, residential orders are restricted.
"The original 910 rule, as adopted in 1988, placed a complete moratorium on all new residential developments," Buchanan said.
Last month the Lee County Attorney's Office proposed the 910 rule be eliminated, Buchanan said because they reportedly told the county staff that it causes claims and lawsuits against the county.
"Which, of course, is true of all land planning restrictions, including zoning, fees and requirements for development orders and permits," he said. "Eliminating the 910 rule would not cause would-be developers to stop trying to eliminate all land planning by the county, and defending county laws in court is why we hire county attorneys."
This is the third time the 910 plan has been questioned by the Lee County Attorney's Office.
"The Pine Island Land Plan, a major feature of Pine Island for the last 25 years, is again under attack," Buchanan said. "This is the third time the plan has come under attack, all three times by the Lee County Attorney's Office and all three times at intervals of seven years."
He said in 1998, when the milestone 910 traffic count was approaching, the Lee County Attorney's Office advised the county commissioners that they could not defend a moratorium in court, a view accepted by a majority of the then commissioners.
"We had no choice but to substitute the moratorium with something less restrictive," Buchanan said. "We developed, and after years of contentious debate, the county commissioners accepted and adopted as law, a procedure by which developers could build residential developments with a restricted number of houses. The number varied on a sliding scale depending on how much native habitat or farmland would be preserved."
Although the Lee County Attorney's Office and the county staff resisted implementing the 910 provisions, he said in 2005, 95 percent of Pine Islanders supported the rule and in March 2006 the county commissioners ordered that the law be enforced after a meeting went from 5-11 p.m.
"The 910 rule has, in fact, been enforced for the last seven years and it has worked extremely well," Buchanan said. "The only residential developments that have been approved have been quality developments with extensive preservation of native habitats. Would-be developers nonetheless continue to protest the rules and bring claims and lawsuits against the county."
Buchanan said the Pine Island Plan went on to win state planning awards and national acclaim, and to this day is held out as a model for communities everywhere.
The Pine Island Plan has been a collaborative effort of thousands of Pine Island residents who have worked on the plan for the last 30 years.
"The initial effort was led by doctors Gene and Ellie Boyd in the 1980s and involved hundreds, if not thousands, of Pine Islanders that were among the first in Florida to get meaningful restrictions on development," Buchanan said. "Their fight against the developers was heroic and sometimes personally dangerous, but it was also successful and historic, and Pine Islanders owe them a great debt."
The issue will be discussed at the March 5 Greater Pine Island Civic Association meeting, as well as the April 2 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Elks Lodge.
"Please be there and defend our coastal rural environment and quality of life," Buchanan said.