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Islanders should attend Woodstock re-zoning hearing

October 18, 2017
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

For those interested in saving Pine Island from one of the worst developments in its history, please attend the Zoning Hearing on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 9 a.m., at 1500 Monroe St. , Fort Myers.

Yes, this is very inconvenient, being held early in the morning, and on a week day, off island and in October while most islanders are still away. But please consider the importance of attending, as it will be your only opportunity to voice an opinion.

The Lee County Mosquito Control District has a purchase contract to buy 39 acres of coastal rural "AG" zoned land at the end of Woodstock Road, in St. James City. The sale is contingent upon them being able to rezone the land from Agricultural to CF. Unlike other "land grabs" that Pine Island has experienced in the past, this one can actually be prevented, unless we are complacent.

A government-use airport is proposed to take the place of a palm tree farm and private residence that now occupies the land. The proposed airport is not going to be for just two choppers as with the Industrial Park, otherwise 39 acres of precious coastal rural waterfront land at a price tag of $1. 5 million would not be spent. The land has direct Gulf access and joins Charlotte Harbor Preserve. It has the potential for a negative environmental impact due to dangerous concentrated chemicals and fuels being stored, transported and handled there. Chemical release or runoff can directly impact 20/20 Conservation and other protected land.

If approved, the site will accommodate the refueling and chemical re-filling needs of the county and will cause Pine Island to endure approximately 50 incoming and outgoing helicopter flights, up to seven days a week, dawn to dusk, according to actual statements and records of Mosquito Control. "Every 15 minutes" is what was stated, and "Less in the winter months" based on weather. There are no guarantees that the flights will not exceed even fifty.

Other government agencies will also have 24-hour access thus creating a nighttime presence that we do not currently have.

If approved, the current heliports that now serve Pine Island will close and consolidate at the Woodstock location which would also service Cape Coral and surrounding areas.

The county is moving forward without having first conducted traffic or environmental impact studies, and has further failed to provide an emergency plan. In light of Irma's potential 16-foot storm surge, and a multitude of tornadoes, lightening and the recent pre-Irma flooding on the island, this proposed site poses a heightened risk to all of Pine Island and surrounding land and waterways.

The county will bulldoze the land and remove the palm tree farm. Airport runway lighting, perimeter lighting, security lighting, will be installed to accommodate nighttime use and secure the chemicals, equipment, tools, structures aircraft and for general security. Chain link and barbed wire fencing will be installed for security as seen in their Industrial Park location.

Woodstock and the surrounding roads are privately owned and maintained by the neighbors. The privately owned roads are the only access to this proposed government facility. It stands to reason that in time homeowners may lose ownership should the county need to pave, widen or light up the roads, which they cannot do on property that does not belong to them.

FACT: Pine Island will NOT benefit from this rezoning. Mosquito Control is a property tax-mandated service regardless of the location of their home base.

FACT: There will be no property tax savings, discounts or rebate.

FACT: If the land is rezoned, it will set a precedent and place other neighborhoods in a vulnerable situation for development.

Please join your island family at the hearing.

Ndakhte Ndiaye

St. James City



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