Lee County land use plan to be put to vote
Apr 20, 2013
The Local Planning Agency on Monday will vote on the most substantial rewrite of Lee County’s development doctrine since the 1980s.
Hoping to stop sprawl, a series of revisions to the Lee Plan propose designating several areas for high-density development: high-rise apartment buildings, retail stores and eateries in close proximity.
Rural areas, meanwhile, could be preserved by offering landowners lucrative incentives not to build developments on their farms, hunting grounds and open spaces. Instead, they could sell development rights to developers who could build in more urban areas.
“We need to put our growth where the amenities are: the roads, the hospitals, the grocery stores,” Commissioner Frank Mann said. “That’s why infill makes sense and that’s why urban sprawl makes no sense.”
Details will be worked out in subsequent changes to Lee’s Land Development Code, but Monday’s vote represents the first step toward finalizing plans that have been three years in the making, Lee County Planning Director Paul O’Connor said.
County officials went to work on revisions after a development boom during the middle part of the last decade expanded Lee’s public works needs to far-reaching areas.
“It’s extremely costly to have to keep stretching infrastructure out further and further,” O’Connor said. “Adding capacity to roads is extremely expensive because of right-of-way costs, construction costs and those kinds of things.”
In a study released Thursday by the Washington-based Brookings Institution, which analyzed how jobs migrated in the top 100 U.S. metro areas from 2000-10, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area leads the nation in job sprawl: the dispersal of employment toward fringe of the urban area and away from central business districts.
Local Planning Agency member and Real Estate Broker Noel Andress explained building in developed parts of Lee is cost-prohibitive under government regulations.
“When a developer goes to try and develop a site, when they try to do an infill site in an urban area, those road are already constrained,” Andress said. “The developer ends up having to do all these off-site road costs making it cost-prohibitive, so that has encouraged sprawl.”