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Residents help choose areas for innovative zoning

July 25, 2011
Lehigh Acres Citizen
Will it work? And when will we see some progress?

More than a dozen Lehigh Acres residents came to the East County Regional Library Saturday morning, July 9, to ask these kinds of questions and discuss the second phase of proposed Zoning Code changes for the community. This public input is an important part of Lee County’s continuing effort to draft land development codes that will implement the Lehigh Community Plan.

Part one of this implementation – zoning code changes for all of Lehigh Acres – includes new rules for community review, street numbering, architectural standards, signs, landscaping, model homes, food vending and duplexes. Those new rules could be finished by early fall.

Part two will tackle proposed mixed-use areas throughout the community. And we’re just getting started. The question is – which one to do first? That’s where the citizens of Lehigh will come in – with the assistance of staff and experts in planning, zoning, transportation and other areas.

On Saturday, July 9, Lee County staff introduced Shellie Johnson of Ensite, the newest member of our team, which also includes Kathie Ebaugh of the Planning Division, Andy Getch of the transportation department, and me. Johnson works for a local planning firm specializing in urban planning, civil engineering, landscaping and sustainable development.

Johnson and Lee County staff presented a new approach to addressing old and new problems in Lehigh Acres. Solutions include using “form-based” codes rather than traditional zoning. This will allow a better mix of uses and more efficient use of land in urban areas. It’s a similar approach as in the award-winning Lee County Compact Communities Code, which can be used anywhere in the county.

Despite the new and innovative content of the discussion on Saturday, the turnout of citizens illustrates that Lehigh citizens have a keen interest in these new ideas. They want to know if they will work in Lehigh and when we will see some results.

“What can go wrong?” was a repeated theme.

“When will we really see any of this start?” was another.

Good questions.

We all recognize the challenges of retrofitting existing development, dealing with interested property owners from around the world, transportation issues, environmental impacts, and the painful economic conditions challenging Lehigh and all of Southwest Florida. We are all hopeful, and want to see results sooner – rather than later.

On Saturday, August 13 at 10 a.m., at the same library location at 881 Gunnery Road, we will discuss which areas to focus on – and work out other details.

Where do we start?

Should we pick two or three areas?

Should we focus on one of many geographic areas in Lehigh, or spread them out?

Good questions again.

Keep this in mind: Citizens will help answer these and other questions. We don’t believe in a top-down approach.

The Lehigh community has the chance to help us decide which geographic centers will be targeted and why. And, we will have plenty of help. Other county staff will be involved in the process, so there will be no surprises as new zoning codes are drafted and property owners try these form-based solutions in the near future.

See you on the 13th.

To see Saturday, July 9th’s presentation, go to:'>

To learn more about implementing the Lehigh Community Plan, go to:'>

Article Photos

Tony Palermo



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