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Pine Island Civic covers variety of subjects

By Staff | Feb 12, 2020

PAULETTE LeBLANC An artist's rendering of the Publix sign could look like on the Pine Island.

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its monthly meeting Feb. 4 at the Elks Club, and the group covered a number of topics from board candidates, to the Calusa Waterkeeper’s efforts, to the proposed Publix to incorporation.

Civic Association President Scott Wilkinson opened the meeting by reminding everyone that any current six-month member or longer is eligible for director candidacy, while the right to vote is extended to members, who’ve been so for at least 60 days.

John Cassani of Calusa Waterkeeper provided an update on the environmental issues, particularly the testing of waters at Tropical Point. The GPICA raised $500 in matching funds in order to partner with Calusa Waterkeeper in the testing of local water at Tropical Point, which Wilkinson would like to see taken over by Lee County.

Cassani emphasized that county public risk signs for contaminated water remain a priority on Pine Island, as only the coastal beaches are currently considered for regular periodic water testing, though they’re trying to change it. Cassani said the county claims to be in communication with the Health Department regarding hazard signs but fails to post them, since Tropical Point is not officially classified as a beach. The problem, Cassani said, is that people, often children, are allowed to wade in the water, which is known to have more fecal matter than is acceptable.

“There is no standardized protocol that I am aware of to determine that it’s safe for those kids or adults to be in the water,” said Cassani. “From what we can determine, it looks like most of the contamination is coming from the south, not the beach area.”

Cassani then gave an update on algal blooms, saying Calusa Waterkeeper, along with parent organization, Water Keeper Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, filed a petition asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to adopt two new water quality standards for two cyto-toxins (the ones produced by algae). He said there is currently no standard, leaving them unregulated in the U.S. The hope, he said, is that there will be some clarity established in the policies used by FDOH to issue public health risk warnings. In January, Cassani said Gov. Ron DeSantis gave an executive order to establish the blue-green algae task force and recently developed the consensus document, legislation continues to work on. The Army Corps of Engineers is working toward publicly adopting something called a “Deviation,” said Cassani, enabling them to move outside the regulation schedule.

“What it means,” said Cassani, “is that if there is blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee, they’re going to try not to discharge that water – they’re going to try to hold the water in the lake longer if need be in order to protect the downstream estuaries from potentially toxic waters.”

Although Cassani said this is a good thing, he noted there are still issues with the lake regulation schedule, many of which are based on the Endangered Species and also Environmental Policy acts.

There was some consternation over the presentation given by Corey Hopkins, Project Manager of Shagbrook Properties, and John Agnelli of Power Corporation, the owner of the property, on the development of a Publix and retail center on Pine Island. The questions raised were regarding impact fees, signage height, parking lot space, traffic issues that could arise, due to the addition of lanes, allowing traffic at the entrance and exits, and whether or not another grocery store is even needed on the island.

Developers have complied with the request to match the existing architecture and color scheme for the future site with hopes to begin the project in the next three to four months. According to Hopkins, the project takes approximately one year, from start to finish. The 28,000-square-foot, stand alone Publix will be smaller than stores generally built and also smaller than the Winn-Dixie currently on the island. For instance, the Publix located at the corner of Pine Island Road and Burnt Store Road stands at 48,000 square feet. Hopkins said the new addition to Pine Island will be equipped with a pharmacy, along with every shopping need typically provided by Publix, including its brand of quality and service. Hopkins reported that any connections they will have to public utilities will require fees paid by them, and that they will also provide substantial utility upgrades.

Size height, as well as the number of signs was of some concern by GPICA members. Although the land development code and the sign code will determine what will be permissible, to date there is no sign permit. The parking lot and improvements necessary to Pine Island Road will also be paid for by Publix. Presently, there is no proposed Publix liquor store. The shopping center in the same location will be owned and developed separately with no concrete plans as to what will be there yet. Hopkins pointed out that anything that has been applied for is a matter of public record and can be found online.

Wilkinson announced that he had a meeting with the Board of County Commissioners after the last board meeting with the purpose of requesting from them a non-binding referendum regarding whether Pine Island and Matlacha voters are in favor of incorporation. Wilkinson said they are requesting a new feasibility study before decided whether or not to put it on the ballot. In keeping with a spirit of objectivity, Wilkinson emphasized the importance of having the county involved and said they are still waiting to hear the results of their request.

The meeting concluded with the Board of Directors election results, as follows: Claudia Bringe, Nancy Harwood, Roger Wood, Shari Perkins, Nadine Slimak and Jamie Brush.