One of the most important meetings and more than likely the last one to be held in Lehigh about the future Lehigh Plan is scheduled Saturday, Sept. 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the meeting room of the East County Regional Library on Gunnery Road, next to Lehigh Senior High School.
Members of the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. (LACPP) were told to mark their calendars for the event. Kathy Ebaugh, a principal planner with Lee County Planning, was at the meeting and said it was important for everyone in the community who is interested in future Lehigh development to show up and help to finalize plans for future development including "community activity centers" that are being planned.
The recommendations go the Board of County Commissioners in January, Ebaugh said, and that the final sessions where the plans may be approved may be in February with the last meeting maybe on Feb. 26.
The monthly meeting of the LACPP voted in a member to fill one vacancy on the 13-member volunteer board last week. In January the board also filled a vacancy.
Laurie Sternowski was voted in on the board in December and took her seat immediately at the table. She said she wanted to be part of her community, not just an onlooker.
"I'd like to be part of trying to make positive change and see plans come to fruition. I firmly believe if a group of talented people focus collectively on one or two top objectives at a time, all of a sudden things start moving and people want to be involved.
"It becomes a synergistic model that feeds itself. As a wise man once said, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," Sternowski told The Citizen. She moved to Lehigh from Massachusetts where she was among other things, an adjunct instructor of graphic arts in the Division of Continuing Education.
She is a business professional with a depth of experience in costing, estimating, marketing and customer service and is proficient in Microsoft products in addition to a variety of operating, planning, and web/graphic programs.
She said her skills coupled with her experience have proven essential in successfully managing customer accounts, budgets, business plans, and programs. She called herself an independent, critical-thinker that can work with or build a solid team.
At the last meeting held on Jan. 9, the board overwhelmingly voted Ken Keehler of Lehigh as its latest member.
Keehler, who had attended the December meeting, was not easily recognized since he had shaved facial hair since the last meeting. Keehler said he was interested in the future of Lehigh Acres and wanted to become involved.
A second review of a request for a liquor store at Sweetbay supermarket on the corner of Bell and Joel boulevards was discussed with approval for application from the LACPP.
LACPP member Steve Conti, who said he lives in a neighborhood not far from the supermarket, claimed that his neighbors were supportive of the planned liquor store.
LACPP members were asked to support plans for future development on four parcels on Lee Blvd. and Harold Ave., on the south side of Gunnery Rd. The parcels face Lee Blvd. and one parcel has a model home on it with a parking lot.
Dalton Drake, the land acquisitions manager from Lennar Co. in Fort Myers was on hand to answer questions and said no one party had chosen the spot yet for development. The other two parcels are wooded property. The LACPP agreed to support the proposal for zone changing but urged a second entrance into the property when developed perhaps on Harold Ave.
Commissioners on the LACPP spent much of the meeting discussing future plans for Lehigh involving the parking of semi-tractor trailers, work trucks and boats. There was much heated debate as members said they did not want such vehicles be parked in residential areas in front of homes or on their driveways or grass.
LACPP Chairman Edd Weiner even went so far to say that if Lehigh was an incorporated community, these would not be problems, but the county often looks the other way when there are problems reported to code enforcement.
"We're looking at the aesthetics of a future Lehigh," Weiner said.
"And it is a gray area with the county. If changes are made, and there are things that are now being allowed, they may be grandfathered in," Weiner said.
Linda Carter, another commissioner, complained about several cars parking on the grass of homes in residential areas and Weiner told her that she may be opening up "a door that may not be shut."
Mohamed Jasin, another commissioner, complained about the amount of cars he says that are for sale all over Lehigh and especially on Lee Blvd. He noted that cars for sale usually appear on weekends along the main boulevard into Lehigh when code enforcement officers are not on duty.
And Ed Weiner , the chairman, also complained of vendors who sell fruits and vegetables in different areas of Lehigh and especially on Saturdays when code enforcement officers are not on hand to hand out violations.
LACCP members also discussed those who walk up down sidewalks waving signs advertising certain businesses and Chairman Edd Weiner said it was against the law under certain conditions but that Lee County officials "ignore us."
At the end of the meeting, Jacqui Chevalier Hill, who has served as secretary for as long as anyone on the board, complained that even though she had made requests to have the meetings recorded, nobody had provided any recording devices yet.
Linda Carter promised to have records at the next meeting on the second Wednesday night in February when the LACPP meets again at the Bravo Station Lee County Sheriff's Office.
"It's hard sometimes to write down everything and everyone's name when you all talk so fast. We need to have it recorded," Hill said and Chairman Edd Weiner agreed.