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Burnt Store residents bring pleas to the city

By Staff | Jan 22, 2016

The Burnt Store Road Right-of-Way Committee told residents who live near the Burnt Store Road widening project on Thursday that they would look into the possibility of adding noise mitigation to the project.

They also told residents that this would not halt construction nor would it scrap its “Safe Streets” initiative.

Several nearby property owners expressed their concerns with the construction project during a 45-minute long meeting at City Hall. Their top issues were noise as well as safety once the road is completed.

Deb Green, who lives in the area, said there needs to be a berm or wall to mitigate some of the noise, adding there is room to do it if they get rid of certain things.

“We don’t need a bike path. We need a berm. Punta Gorda has them at their end. Five feet is enough,” Green said.

Joe Wisocki expressed concern that with homes standing right next to the road, it would create a safety issue.

“The road is expected to have a 50 mph speed limit; that means you’ll have 18-wheelers coming down that road at 65 mph,” Wisocki said. “What if that truck goes off the road?”

Committee member Nate Bliss said he was disappointed that noise mitigation wasn’t considered when the roadwork was planned, as Lee County does not attenuate sound. But he added this expansion to four lanes has to go through, since it’s been in the works for more than a decade.

“All the options have been discussed since 2004. We spoke of all these issues. I’m disappointed we have no berms,” Bliss said. “But we’re getting jammed up on Pine Island Road and we won’t be able to move people at buildout. Everything has been examined to the best of our ability.”

The committee told the residents there is an alleyway the city owns right along the road, one that could possibly house a berm.

However, City Manager John Szerlag said there were five elements that would determine if noise mitigation would happen; what it would take to put in a berm and how much it would cost. There would have to be a bike path and that’s non-negotiable. If the alley was vacated what would it take to build a wall and what would it cost? It would have to be independent of construction, meaning the project would not be interrupted, as well as safety and impact.

In regards to the requested berm, Szerlag was pessimistic because there likely wouldn’t be enough land to create a safe or effective berm.

“You need to have a 4-to-1 ratio to build a berm, a three-foot berm isn’t going to cut it,” Szerlag said.

Also, a berm carries an approximate cost of $13 million, though committee chairman, City Councilmember Rick Williams, said he believes the cost of mitigation would be less, by how much he did not know.

Williams suggested that city staff look into all options and see if noise attenuation was feasible. The motion passed unanimously.

County Commissioner John Manning attended the meeting, and said he was optimistic a solution can be found.

“We will hopefully resolve the problems that we see here. I don’t know if we can or can’t, but we’re going to get the information to the parties that came here today,” Manning said. “We have a long way to go.”

Resident Kathy Bradley wasn’t as optimistic. She moved to Cape Coral in the summer and said she wasn’t informed of the widening project when she bought the house that backs up to the road.

“The equipment comes right up to my back yard. I’m not happy. The sellers and the Realtors never told me,” Bradley said. “I’ve heard so many stories from so many people. I want to get to the truth.

“I’m very pessimistic. I don’t know who to believe. I love my house and love the area, But I’m getting cracks in the walls and ant infestation,” Bradley said. “I don’t know what to do.”

Williams said he hopes to have more information and maybe a solution by April at their next meeting. Having heard the residents, he’s not ready to tell them no.

“We’re working on it. We’re trying to get something done. We can’t say we can’t do it,” Williams said. “We have other people involved and we’re looking for alternatives and answers.”