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Pondella emerges as top choice for road widening project

By Staff | Mar 26, 2010

Business owners and civic leaders attending a public workshop on proposed roadway improvements in North Fort Myers expressed surprise this week when a plan to widen Pondella Road to six lanes emerged as the top choice over the expansion of Hancock Bridge Parkway.
Cella Molnar & Associates will take the recommendation to expand Pondella Road to the county commission sometime this summer, according to several officials.
“We knew Pondella (Road) widening was an option, but we believe the community is best served with the original Hancock plan,” said North Fort Myers Planning Panel president John Gardner.
“The adopted Vision Statement for the North Fort Myers area includes redevelopment from the two 41’s, and the extension of Hancock,” he added.
At issue now is where Pondella will be expanded, if approved — to the north or south. Both options were noted at the workshop.
“The level of impact to the community is better to the south,” said AIM Engineering’s Sean Donahoo.
To expand Pondella to the south would cost about $24-million, to the north, $25-million.
On Hancock, they said about $31-million would needed for option 1, Cabana Avenue through Hancock. Option 2 – Oak Street – would cost more than $37-million.
That information didn’t appease local business owners who expressed their concern on what could potentially happen.
Happy Pets owner Geri Anderson said the whole idea was fruitless — north or south.
“There is no need for this. This road is not that well traveled, and it would definitely put me out of business if they did this (north option.) There is no way they could compensate me for what I’ve put into my business.”
“It is a bad idea,” said local property owner Sloweig Mere. “That’s not counting the fact we only heard about this meeting this morning.
“We don’t want it, it is not necessary. There are other things more important in the area right now.”
Her husband, Tom Mere, agreed.
“This is a total disaster. They missed the whole point. If they take away business parking (to the north) no one is going to lease. On the south, the church will be out. They missed the boat.”
On the notice issue, Jennifer Dorning of Cella Molnar & Associates said mailings were noted as going out March 18, and notification included advertisements and mailings. The meeting was held March 25.
Lee County officials said if any business loses parking, it would be compensated or offered a buy-out.
The original plan was to ease congestion in North Fort Myers, and Fire Chief Terry Pye said he thinks this is a great idea.
“We need to alleviate some of the congestion,” Pye said.
Gregg Makepeace, president of the North Fort Myers Civic Association, said the plan is in an incredibly initial stage.
“I’m just glad people are able to see this in such an early stage of planning,” he said.
There is no budget for the plan at this time, only for the study.
The comment period remains open until April 9.
“Please give my phone number to anyone who would like to submit comment or who would like more information regarding the project. I can send them information or they can come to our office to view the information,” said Dorning.
The phone number is 337-1071.