To the editor:
The Pine Island Plan is once again under attack by the Lee County Attorney's Office - the same organization that has been fighting it for over 25 years. As Pine Island old-timers will recall, we had to rewrite the Pine Island Plan because the CAO refused to enforce the original 1988 plan, which was a complete moratorium on new residential developments. Then they proposed that Matlacha be bulldozed to accommodate a four-lane highway to support huge residential developments on the main island. Then they refused to implement the 810/910 rules. They were overturned by the County Commissioners at every turn, which until the recent election supported Pine Island 5-0.
Now we have new county commissioners and the CAO is renewing its efforts. They have scheduled a closed executive session with the commissioners on Nov. 25 to review lawsuits and Bert Harris' liability claims against the county. In the past, the CAO has recommended (1) that Lee County offer to pay tens of millions to large landowners on Pine Island to cover hypothetical damages (for not being able to build huge and totally unrealistic cities on palm plantations), and (2) eliminate the Pine Island Plan, and authorize instead one house per acre on farm and rural lands (which could be some 30,000 new houses). Presumably, the CAO will again present the same proposals. Of course, the large landowners and their consultants and attorneys strongly support these proposals.
Pine Islanders need to write all five commissioners and express their support for the existing Pine Island Plan. Tell them the big landowners have not actually suffered any damages and should not be given taxpayer money. Tell them the big landowners are actually better off under the Pine Island Plan than they were under the moratorium it replaced. Tell them the Bert Harris Act (which is not retroactive) did not even exist when the original Pine Island Plan was written. And tell them the award-winning Pine Island Plan has worked very well and is essential to Pine Island's coastal rural character, environment, tourist-based economy, and quality of life. Tell them to protect the Pine Island Plan.