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60 attend Pine Island Planning Committee meeting

December 16, 2015
By ED FRANKS (edfranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

About 60 people attended the Pine Island Planning Committee meeting last week at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church.

The committee was established to give a voice to Pine Islanders during the "re-write" of the Pine island Plan.

The "re-write" came about due to one existing lawsuit and several pending lawsuits under the Bert Harris Act. Several years ago the original Pine Island Plan came under attack with litigation from Cammilot Partners. The county settled the lawsuit in the amount of $250,000. Threats of additional lawsuits, potentially costing the county $12 to $16 million, prompted changes to the original plan.

The County Commissioners established a Pine Island "steering" committee that included Noel Andress, Phil Buchanan, Michael Dreikorn, Michael Downing, Bob Elder, Dan Honc and Kathy Malone.

A Pine Island Planning Committee meeting was held at Fishers of Men Lutheran Church on Oct. 16. County Attorney Richard Wesch presented the potential legal ramifications of the "old" Pine Island Plan and why changes were necessary to protect the county from litigation.

"I've been here about two years and one of the first tasks we were given was to address potential Pine Island litigation and liabilities," Wesch said. "We tried settlement with these cases but thought a better way to go would be to find a way to limit liabilities for the county while still preserving the unique character of Pine Island."

Wesch assembled a team to examine the "old" Pine Island Plan and suggest changes that would protect the county from liability.

At the Oct. 16 meeting Wesch said, "We are very sensitive to the timing of this meeting. We scheduled this meeting at this time because we wanted to have sufficient time for a series of public meetings when everyone is back. Please take away that this is only the first in a series of public meetings."

Wesch announced that the county entered into settlement negotiations on the remaining eight pending legal cases.

"These settlements are grounded upon a payment of $4.25 million," Wesch said. "That is a total liability figure for all eight cases. But most importantly we are buying the development rights for these eight properties above one unit per 10 acres."

According to Wesch, the new Transfer Development Rights program will all but eliminate excessive growth on the island and TDR will de-intensify building on the island using economics not regulation.

A TDR is a voluntary, market-based program used to transfer development from Pine Island (sending area) to other locations (receiving areas) in Lee County. This program should reduce development on Pine Island.

In a series of recent emails with Lee County staff, Phil Buchanan expressed his concern regarding "open space" requirements of the new plan.

"The main problem as I see it is the provision that allows developers to 'opt-out' of providing open space in new developments," Buchanan said. "We need what is called 'envelope housing' where the open space is located between the houses and the HOA is responsible for the maintenance. If as proposed by Lee County staff, you just deed the entire 2.7 acres to a buyer and tell them to do whatever they want, you get a mess. Whatever acres are too small to farm and too big to mow the buyer will most likely just let the place return to invasives. The County wants to replace open space requirements by a provision that limits the size of the house to 25 percent of the lot, which would be some acre footprint. Nobody on Pine Island wants to limit the size of houses, but we do want to preserve open space."

In order to restore the open space requirement, Buchanan suggests eliminating the county's language of open space requirements from "or the development standards must limit maximum lot coverage of residential lots to 25 percent, including principal and accessory 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 road-front between housing lots."

The Local Planning Agency'consists of Noel Andress, Timothy Brown, Dennis Church, Jim Green, Rick Joyce, David Mulicka and Gary Tasman.

 
 

 

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