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Civic prepares for Pine Island Plan meeting

October 14, 2015
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Last Tuesday evening, about 75 people arrived at the Elks Lodge to attend the first Greater Pine Island Civic Association meeting of the season. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the meeting between Pine Island residents and representatives of the Lee County Commissioners Oct. 14 about the proposed rewrite of the Pine Island Plan.

The County Commissioners have set that meeting with island residents at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church, 10360 Stringfellow Road, in St. James City, at 5:30 pm.

GPICA president Roger Wood welcomed everyone to the meeting and requested a moment of silence for Pine Island resident Jeremie Riehm, who was aboard the El Faro cargo ship lost at sea in hurricane Joaquin. The Riehm family have been long time residents of Pine Island.

Prior to the meeting, Phil Buchanan forwarded an email that was used as the centerpiece for the discussion: "The Good," "New Stuff" and "Controversial" articles in the Pine Island Plan amendments.

"We can start with the 'Good" Stuff,'" Buchanan said. "I note with great satisfaction that the existing Pine Island Plan provisions on building height limitations, keeping commercial fishing equipment at home, prohibitions on subdivision entrance gates, fences and walls, 'old Florida' commercial building standards, street layout rules, aquatic preserve buffer requirements and sign restrictions remain completely unchanged.

"The remaining details are that the amendments to the Plan 'strongly discourages' another bridge," Buchanan said.

In the second category, "New Stuff" is the "Transfer of Development Rights program." Buchanan considers this an innovative method to help preserve Pine Island.

"The proposed Transfer of Development Rights program is innovative and appears well designed," Buchanan said. "I hope the program is a success and offers a generous source of income for Pine Island large landowners."

The centerpiece of the proposal is a very vigorous TDR/TDP program. Transferable Development Rights (TDR) are a land use management tool. A TDR program allows landowners of designated sending areas to sever the right to develop land from the "bundle" of other rights associated with that property and then to sell those rights to others who may use the rights in certain designated receiving areas.

Another item considered under "New Stuff" are the Hurricane Evacuation provisions. The Plan rewrite says: The County will "maintain a maximum hurricane evacuation clearance time of 18 hours for Greater Pine Island ..."

According to Lee County Emergency Management, Greater Pine Island can now be evacuated in 10 to 10.5 hours. Some islanders dispute that figure and believe it's not just getting off the island but it's about getting to a safe area. Does the 18-hour figure refer to just getting people to central Cape Coral?

The third, and final, item under consideration is a "voluntary" MSBU and MSTU tax on Pine Islanders. The difference between MSBU and MSTU is the source of the revenue. Under MSBU, the revenue comes from non-ad valorem (non-value) assessments and under MSTU taxes are based on ad valorem (value). These taxes would be used to pay for the TDR above. Most in attendance were against this proposal. The Plan calls for a petition to approve or reject these taxes.

Under "Controversial" items is the removal of the 810/910 rule and replacing it with "one dwelling every 2.7 acres plus requiring developments to have 50% open space." According to Buchanan, the proposed 2.7 density is a very serious compromise for Pine Island.

Buchanan said the "50% open space rule is also an essential component of that compromise. 50% open space is the amount of land the developer has to set aside as native habitat, and that's what keeps Pine Island a rural community. Agreeing to give up the 810/910 rules, which had worked so well for decades, in return for a 2.7-acre density and a 50% open space rule may be very hard for Pine Island."

"It is absolutely essential that the open space provisions be rewritten," Buchanan said. "All the county has to do is just eliminate the words 'or the development standards must limit maximum lot coverage of residential lots to 25%, including principal and accessary structures' from Sec 33-1054 (b) (4), and add the sentence 'Open space must be located outside housing lots and whenever practicable be spaced on roadfront between housing lots.'" This is the "envelope housing" proposed by Roger Wood.

"I hope every Pine Islander shows up for the meeting on the 14th," Buchanan said. "Commis-sioner Manning will be here with staff to present the rewrite of the Plan and answer questions."

The proposed amendments are available at

Greater Pine Island Civic Association meetings are open to the public at no charge. GPICA meets at the Elks on Pine Island Road, west of Stringfellow, the first Tuesday of every month through May. Contact Roger Wood, president, at 920-421-3984 for more information.



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