Land transfer could pave way for extension to I-75
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved an interdepartmental sale of the Conservation 20/20 land within Prairie Pines Preserve by a 3-2 vote Tuesday.
The transfer of 54.60 acres was approved to the Lee County Department of Transportation for the Del Prado Boulevard extension to Interstate 75, which completes the right-of-way needed from the 20/20 alignment approved by commissioners, according to a prepared statement. The cost of the transfer amounted to $205,900.
In April 2001, Lee County acquired 2,388 acres of land for Conservation 20/20 within Prairie Pines Preserve, which is located in North Fort Myers, at a cost of $6,357,520, equaling $2,662 per acre.
Commissioner Tammy Hall explained that the land was purchased in 2004 before it was a 20/20 property. It was purchased with the Del Prado extension to I-75 in mind.
“Whether or not the Del Prado interchange ever gets built or not is still a very large question,” she said.
An alignment was requested by the city of Cape Coral in 2004, with a long-range transportation plan in progress.
A date has not been set for the project to begin. It was identified as a five- to 10-year plan by county officials at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It was understood that we were going to have to extend Del Prado to I-75 and that’s why we worked out the exchange for the alignment, precisely so we wouldn’t destroy natural habitat,” Commissioner Ray Judah said.
“Not putting an alignment there is irresponsible to the property owners who have acreage and are looking to do things,” Hall said. “Or if it were to go there and developments were built there, then the county would have to condemn and pay millions of dollars to put a right-of-way there.”
Judah said they took a valuable piece of land for wildlife that they need to design accordingly, so they can fit infrastructure into the environment.
“We knew the Del Prado alignment had to come around Prairie Pines,” Hall said, adding that the interchange will go around the bottom portion of the preserve.
“It is not going through Prairie Pines and is not impacting the development negatively,” she said.
“This is an incredible testimony of what our staff has accomplished,” Judah said of the process.
Hall said she did not see the purpose in delaying the subject any more on a matter that it is still a far-out transportation process.
Commissioners Brian Bigelow and Frank Mann dissented.