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Protecting Greater Pine Island

May 3, 2017
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

The purpose for incorporation is to preserve the character of our islands and nothing else. The Greater Pine Island Civic Association's proposal to incorporate strictly limits the authority of the municipality to controlling our land management plan and to provide for the public protection and good. The horse is already out of the gate but, by incorporating, we can stop further erosion of our land management plan and protect the area's character.

In regard to development, if you don't control what is happening to you, it will control you. The only way to control development is to incorporate as a municipality. In the early 2000s, after many years of tireless effort by a lot of wonderful people, Greater Pine Island (GPI) managed to get a land management plan (LMP) adopted by the County Commission. At that time, no one wanted to hear about incorporation. Later, when developers started to complain that the LMP was too restrictive on development, some people wanted to appear reasonable to the County Commission and pushed amendments to our LMP, in the hope that the county would be reasonable with us in the future. However, because our land use plan was amended, we became liable under the Bert Harris Act and landowners filed lawsuits. As a result, GPI now has approximately triple the building density allowed, the amount of traffic allowed on Pine Island Road and the minimum evacuation time. All that time, money and effort to obtain the original land use plan was wasted.

For example, everyone knows that the in-season traffic flow through Matlacha has become ridiculous and dangerous. There are relatively simple actions that can be taken to greatly improve the traffic flow through Matlacha. These actions were proposed to the County Commission and their response was, "Don't worry about it, we are planning to study the problem in 2020 or 2021." Really? If we incorporate, we can fix our traffic flow problems the minute we are incorporated.

Matlacha is now in costly litigation to try to stop Cape Coral's annexation in Matlacha. Good luck! I was raised in Florida and have seen this same thing happen time and again. You will not be able to outspend the greedy developers and politicians. There is too much money to be made. You cannot hope they will eventually go away. If we don't control our development, some or many of you will be living in the shadow of 30-story condominiums. That is just a fact in Florida. There are a lot of baby boomers getting ready to retire and, guess what, many are going to want to move down here in the nice winter weather. It has been happening for many decades and it is going to accelerate.

In accordance with what the GPICA has learned from the incorporation study performed by BJM Consulting:

* Our taxes will not be increased due to incorporation.

* GPICA is a "donor" community in Lee County. That is, we pay Lee County more in taxes than we receive in services.

* Because we are a donor community, our municipality will generate $3 million to $4 million in surplus taxes over the first five years.

* Our resulting tax surplus will be spent here, not in other areas of Lee County as it is now.

* Lee County will continue to provide all of the services they now provide at the same cost.

* Our municipal charter can be written so that government creep/expansion cannot happen.

Our governing officers will be elected from among us. We have to be careful to make sure those we elect will not undermine our land management plan. Yes, we have to be vigilant but we can control our own destiny. The sooner the better.

The last step in incorporation is a voter referendum. Every voter will know exactly what the proposed municipal charter has in it. If you don't think it is restrictive enough, you merely have to vote against it and incorporation will not happen. I won't vote for incorporation unless the municipal charter is extremely restrictive in its operating scope. Please don't bury your head in the sand. Give incorporation a fair examination and determine if it is the best thing for all of us.

Bryan Crane



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