An update on the widening of a part of Homestead Rd. in the downtown area of Lehigh Acres, a report of reduced parking requirement for developments, a way for residents who can't attend public meetings about the future of Lee County and especially Lehigh Acres to exchange ideas with county planners, and openings for three new members were all discussed at the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. meeting.
The group, which has been in existence for more than a decade meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in the Sheriff's Annex at the rear of the building at Bravo Substation on Homestead Rd.
LACPP Chairman Edd Weiner updated the group about the planned widening of Homestead Rd.
"I met with county staff this week and the report is that we are moving ahead, but slowly with the widening plan from Beth Stacey Blvd. to Alabama Ave. From there on out to Sunrise Blvd. widening of Homestead won't take place until 2014," Weiner said.
Weiner also announced that three openings on the 14-member board of the LACPP are vacant, due to illnesses and those who have moved away. He said people who would like to be a part of a group helping to improve Lehigh Acres by working with Lee County planners to develop the Lehigh Plan, may send short resumes to Lehigh Community Planning Corp. at PO Box 157, Lehigh Acres, 33936. Be prepared to show up at the next meeting on Sept. 12 to be considered through a voting process of the board. All meetings of the LACPP are open to the public.
Tony Palermo, a senior planner in the zoning division of Lee County Community Development gave a short update of plans for the "activity centers" for downtown Lehigh on Homestead Rd. and for an area on Joel Blvd. near the old Admiral Lehigh Resort site.
Palermo also submitted for the board's information, a copy of what is referred to as the Communities Element. Basically, it fosters the unique character of the individual communities with the unincorporated area of Lee County. The element recognizes that each community has distinct character, needs, and vision for its future. The Communities
Element promotes a unified approach to community planning through general community planning policies which identify common needs and concerns that face all local community planning efforts such as in Lehigh Acres and other sites.
Palermo noted that the element addresses specific needs within the individual communities, while ensuring community planning efforts remain consistent with the county's overall goals, objectives and policies.
Examples included a topic for suburban communities which include historic platted communities challenged by rapid growth and past planning and development practices.
These communities have predominantly residential uses and varying levels of intensity, employment, retail shopping, and public amenities such as parks, schools and libraries. These areas generally seek redevelopment opportunities and innovative solutions to challenges created by urban sprawl such as traffic, infrastructure and quality of life issues. Included are places such as North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres.
Palermo announced a new Internet site that was created last week to help residents in the county who are have been unable to attend meetings. He said the site is: lehighcountytownhall.com. There residents can offer ideas and suggestions in helping to tweak plans already made for community plans such as that for Lehigh Acres. He said planners will get back with all who take part online.
Mikki Rozdolski, a senior planner with Lee County Community Development, offered proposed changes in parking regulations throughout unincorporated Lee County. In essence, Riozdolski said the required number of parking spots in new developments will be reduced.
She cited one example such as a furniture store and a supermarket, which have required the same amount of parking spots for customers, depending on its building size. Now consideration will be taken as to the type of development and a reduced number of parking places.
"Obviously the furniture store doesn't need as many parking places as the supermarket," Rozdolski said.
LACPP member Linda Carter said such restrictions could hurt the disabled who depend on several special parking spots for those who are disabled.
Robert L. Price, a senior engineer with the Dept. of Community Development in Fort Myers, was also at the meeting and he said developers may add more parking areas for the disabled, but a certain requirement by the American with Disability Act (ADA) will be honored. Price showed illustrations of some developments with area marked for reduction in parking. He said the developer or owners of the buildings can enhance their site with better landscaping.
He said the last discussion about parking regulations for development occurred in 1986, some 26 years ago.
He noted that the proposed changes are in conjunction with the ongoing Comprehensive Plan update and revisions are based on staff review of national planning studies and a review of other jurisdictions' requirements. There are no plans to change the parking rules for most residential areas, he said.
He said more information can be obtained by going to the Lee County Community Development site which can be googled on the Internet.