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Hearing held for Calusa Cay project

April 10, 2013
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A hearing was held for Calusa Cay Wednesday due to the request to rezone 26.77 acres of land from agricultural and commercial to commercial planned development to construct a shopping center and two outparcels on Pine Island Road.

Although the meeting touched upon many conditions and deviations, the shopping center's design and traffic concerns received the most conversation.

Attorney Matt Uhle said the history of the project goes back to 2001 with a wide arrange of amendments.

Chris Lee, with Christopher J. Lee Architects, said the project started in 2006-2007 when the client approached them to do some design work for a proposed commercial center. A concept was developed and submitted.

"As this project evolved, we developed this character sketch," Lee said, which reflected the character, style and esthetics, which is predominantly old Florida.

The drawing he described included peak forms to give variation in roof height, as well as textures, horizontal siding and metal roofing with metal paneling.

"It's very much targeted to be the community we are trying to set it in," Lee said.

Another sketch was made that increased the texture and diversity in the materials, which was a different concept. Lee said the character sketch provided something that displayed how to break down the mass.

The sketch provided more character with the use of awnings and other vertical elements - siding, portals and breezeways between the buildings.

The breezeway, Lee explained, provides a void in the massing between two buildings. He said it acts as a pedestrian path, as well as a section to allow the air to flow through.

The discussion of second balconies and narrow intrusions to break up the buildings were also discussed. Lee said although it might look like a second story, it is not interpreted that way.

"It's a variation in massing and roof textures," he said.

Lee said the key to having an old Florida style building is to make it cohesive and consistent with everything in the complex.

Chief Hearing Examiner Diane Parker asked if it was feasible to have a series of old Florida buildings, rather than them clustered together.

"Anytime you start to break buildings into separate buildings, the cost increases," Lee said.

Greater Pine Island Civic Association President Roger Wood spoke during the hearing to share his concern with the elevation of the shopping complex. He said what was presented during the meeting Wednesday was different than what was presented and approved by the association membership.

The new design, Wood said, does not represent the old Florida style of architecture.

"The design characters make it look bigger and taller," he said.

Wood also shared his concern about seeing an identity building in the complex such as a McDonald's or Burger King that utilizes the standard design, rather than the old Florida style.

Uhle said they want to do whatever makes people happy for the elevation of the shopping center.

"If we can reach an agreement with any one of the elevations that would be fine with us," he said.

The impact the shopping center would have on the traffic was also discussed during the hearing.

Ted Treesh, president of TR Transportation Consultants Inc., said a study was conducted in 2009 when it was a larger planned retail development.

"We utilized the standard shopping center land use code," he said. "This area of the county is unique in terms of the uses that are there. We looked at a conservative approach in trip generation for the shopping center."

Treesh said they used more of the common sense approach because the shopping center was going to be unique rather than a typical center along places on U.S. 41 or in more populated areas. He said it was about how they could justify the transportation study and make the county staff comfortable with their findings.

"Our view was this shopping center is very similar with what exists today at the Burnt Store and Pine Island Road Publix anchor shopping center," Treesh said.

He said the biggest concern was the 810 and 910 rule due to the impact of trips on Pine Island Road, more specifically in Matlacha.

"Traffic on Pine Island is a sensitive topic," said Robert Price, senior engineer for Lee County, because the Lee Plan policy limits additional traffic being generated on Pine Island Road. "The Lee Plan policy has been adopted to restrict the amount of traffic generated from off island."

The policy, he said, restricts further zoning to increase traffic on Pine Island through Matlacha.

Treesh said they looked at one of the deductions, select zone analysis, which looked at how many folks on Pine Island are shopping at the Publix shopping center on Burnt Store Road.

"Not an exact scientific method, kind of the best we had," he said.

Treesh said they agreed that with the Calusa Cay shopping center there would be an 8.3 percent deduction of Pine Island residents traveling off island to go grocery shopping at the Burnt Store complex. He explained them as diverted length trips because those going by the shopping center are being diverted to the Calusa Cay complex.

"Eight point three percent will divert here," Treesh said, adding that it is capturing trips.

Pass-by trips were also discussed during his presentation.

"Pass-by trips are the same trips that are driving by the shopping center that choose to stop at this location on the way to a primary destination," Treesh said. "It's not your primary purpose trip."

He said the shopping center will have very little impact on Matlacha because of the uses that are being proposed. Treesh said the numbers work out to be less than a 3 percent impact on the peak hour volume of traffic on Pine Island Road in Matlacha.

"This retail use is going to serve the island," he said. "It's not going to generate a substantial amount of trips off island."

Price said the proposed Calusa Cay shopping center would generate 321 new external trips with 156 entering the complex and 173 exiting. Seventy-five percent of the traffic will come from Pine Island and the other from Matlacha.

Price said the project is likely going to increase traffic on Pine Island Road.

"My initial thought was to recommend a denial because of the impacts on roadway network," he said. "Staff was challenged to finding ways to support the project."

Price said after having a long hard look at some of the policies in the Lee Plan, they came up with a few solutions.

Those include eliminating some of the unique uses, as well as promoting nonvehicular traffic.

One of the schedule of uses that was eliminated included convenience food and beverage store, Price said, because they are high traffic generators. He said if Parker was so inclined to add it back, he was not going to fret much over it.

Although group three restaurants were eliminated, he said they did not strike fast food restaurants.

"A McDonald's is not going to attract much people from off island," he said.

The destination unique based restaurants were a concern for Price because those attract people from off island.

"It's your Miceli's, it's your restaurants you only find on Pine Island," he said. "Those absolutely attract people off island."

Parker questioned Price if a group three restaurant was really going to attract people off island between the peak hours of 4-6 p.m.

"Typically my trips out there don't coincide with the peak hour," she said.

Price said they have to look at impacts of westbound traffic on Pine Island Road.

"It is going to happen in those hours (4-6 p.m.) and that is what we are trying to avoid," he said. "We agree on group one and group two restaurants. Destination unique based restaurants we are concerned about."

Price said in an effort to be creative, the staff recommends a sidewalk/bike path be extended from the Calusa Cay complex to Avenue C, which is about 1,000 feet in length. He said the path would be safer for pedestrians as they can use the road right away to get to Stringfellow Road.

"This will provide a tremendous benefit to residents," Price said, adding that it will also have a positive impact on the roadways.

Parker said by requiring a bike path or sidewalk to connect the complex to Stringfellow Road they really are not addressing any traffic coming through Matlacha. She said they are only addressing traffic between the stop sign and the west bound of the subject property.

"The idea is we want to look at limiting additional traffic on Pine Island Road," Price said. "If we are going to promote nonvehicular traffic, it is going to help take traffic off of Pine Island Road."

He said if staff decides to eliminate the sidewalk condition, they do not think they can support the project.

Uhle said they supplied a 48-hour notice before the meeting Wednesday morning with regard to the sidewalk/bike path on Pine Island Road. He said they disagree with the premise because there is no doubt that the traffic is insignificant and is not necessary because the traffic impact does not exist.

Parker said although she will probably recommend approval for the rezoning of the shopping plaza, she does not know about the various conditions. She asked the applicant's staff and county staff to make revisions to a few deviations as well as look at the schedule of uses.

Those revisions have to be submitted by April 10 at 4:30 p.m.

"I will leave the record open to change the conditions and deviations," Parker said.



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