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Despite residents’ objections, Board of County Commissioners OKs Leetana zoning

By Staff | Oct 11, 2019

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners has approved a zoning change for 216 acres that will clear the way for Leetana, a 201-unit development of single-family homes.

The 4-0 vote came despite residents’ objections that the project would encroach on their rural neighborhood and create problems with traffic, flooding and water quality.

The land was rezoned for Agriculture (AG-2) to Residential Planned Development (RPD). The property, which has no sewer, will have an advanced septic system and water quality monitoring.

The Hearing Examiner had found the project would not be destructive to the character of the Bayshore community and that “the site design accommodates sheet flow from the north and provides additional water quality treatment of water destined for Chapel Branch Creek and the Caloosahatchee River. These benefits would not be available were the property to be developed under the existing AG zoning designation.”

Currently, as a cow pasture, the area produces about 2,700 pounds of nitrogen annually. With the advanced septic system to be part of the project, that number would be reduced to 700 pounds, according to Kirk Martin of Water Science Associates.

However, the County’s Vision for 2030, expressed by Bayshore residents, is that the Bayshore community will be “predominately a rural residential area of single-family homes on large acres… (t)here are also scattered single-family subdivisions …on smaller lots, which provide for a full range of housing prices.”

This is what Bayshore residents had to say when it was their turn to speak during public comment. Steven Brodkin said the Hearing Examiner’s report did not fully address the public concerns and that some of those wishing to speak at the HEX meeting could not and therefore were barred from speaking at the county hearing held last Tuesday.

Stephanie Eller, a 40-year resident across the street from the proposed development, said she was ready to deal with the plan until she heard about the septic tanks.

“We have to become land-use experts of incredibly complex laws that they have to hire attorneys because government is doing what I think is piecemeal and poor decision making,” Eller said. “I hope the next generation of decision makers does a better job than this.”

Debbie Jackow, a 43-year resident, said Bayshore is a rural area where people can escape the hustle and bustle. This development would take some of that away.

“Bayshore is one of the few agricultural areas left in Lee County and it needs to be protected from sprawling development,” Jackow said. “This development is not low density and different from the other surrounding properties. Putting in 201 homes on 216 acres is irresponsible. Can you imagine drinking from a well with 200 septic tanks? Something like this belongs on county and city water.”

The developers contend they have been trying to alleviate some of the flooding issues Bayshore has.

Commissioner Brian Hamman said since technically the development fits standards regarding rural development, the developers don’t have to do anything regarding advanced septic, though he believed they need to install infrastructure for sewer.

“We are approving a planned development, but not necessarily the 200 units because the density is already baked in the Lee Plan,” Hamman said. “I have a problem with the septic tanks… It makes sense to do sewer first because it puts the infrastructure in the ground rather have to do it later. I don’t think I have the law on the side.”