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Pine Island Plan meeting draws scant attendance

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners held the first of two Land Development Code Amendments public hearings for the revised Pine Island Plan Tuesday to a near-empty house.

The room was empty except for two Pine Island residents. A motion was made by Commissioner John Manning to move the meeting to the second public hearing on April 5 at 9:30. The motion was adopted unanimously and the meeting adjourned.

The original Pine Island Plan, adopted in 1994, came under attack after the county re-designated lands classified as Rural on the Future Land Use Category Map to a new category called Coastal Rural in 2003. At that time the county reduced the allowable density for Pine Island property from one dwelling per acre to one dwelling unit per 10 acres.

Then, in 2007, the allowable density for property located in ‘Coastal Rural’ was further reduced from one unit per 10 acres to one unit per 17 acres.

In 2009, Lee County was sued by eight property owners under the Bert Harris Act also called the “Private Property Rights Protection Act.” This act recognizes that some laws, regulations, and ordinances of the state “may inordinately burden, restrict or limit private property rights.”

In the first case, the plaintiffs, Cammilot Partners, LLC, maintained that the adoption of Coastal Rural regulations inordinately burdened their property. On July 15, 2014, the court ruled against Lee County, finding the county liable for the damages resulting from the Coastal Rural regulations under the Bert Harris Act. Prior to the trial on damages, the county reached a $250,000 settlement with the plaintiffs.

As a result of the Cammilot Decision, in February 2015, the County Attorney’s Office advised the County Commissioners that the remaining seven lawsuits could cost the county $10 million plus legal costs, and that potential lawsuits could cost $100 million. The County Attorney’s recommended amending the original Pine Island Plan.

In March, the Board directed county staff along with the County Attorney’s Office to review the current LDC and Lee Plan and bring forward proposed amendments that would limit potential county liability from land use and property rights cases brought by Pine Island landowners.

The resulting 52-page “Draft Ordinance Pine Island Land Development Code amendments” was issued Jan. 16,.

According to Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch there have been no changes to the Jan. 16 document. The second public hearing will be at the County Commissioners Chambers on April 5 at 9:30 a.m.