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LACPC has issues with church’s variance bid

March 21, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

While members of the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. said they encourage churches to build and expand, they had an issue with the Metro Christian Fellowship Church of God near Heights Boulevard and Clayton Avenue.

Rusty O'Neill, an engineer and planner with Quattrane & Associates in Fort Myers, told LACPC members at their March 13 meeting that the church is requesting variances affecting the addition to an existing building and the change on the grounds, among other things.

O'Neill came with a site plan and papers to back up plans by the church and said he was scheduled to go before the county's examiner within a few weeks.

Article Photos

Rusty O’Neill

Because of that, he said he would do his best to talk to church officials about the suggested changes by the LACPC, which included several issues from where handicapped parking spots were planned to landscaping and more, including traffic congestion.

O'Neill was at the meeting to ask for the LACPP's support so he could pass than on to the hearing examiner.

One of the main issues LACPP members had was an entrance which comes out on Leeland Heights Blvd. Members said turning left on a four- laned highway was is dangerous and the problem needed to be reexamined. Church members and others who may use the facilities could be at the site during the day seven days a week, including Sunday School and Sunday worship services.

LACPP members passed a motion suggesting changes and asked O'Neill to come back to the April 10 meeting to see what changes, if any, could have been made before presentation of the plan to the county hearing examiner.

There are two existing buildings on the site and church officials want to add on to one of the buildings and use the structure as a sanctuary and fellowship center. The other existing building would become a sanctuary for Sunday School.

As proposed, an entrance is at Leeland heights Blvd. LACPP members are afraid the left turn attempt could be a death trap. Another entrance is on Clayton Ave., a residential area, with no apparent problems.

The address of the church is 23 Clayton Avenue.

Member Frank LaRosa said he "was scared for people making a left-hand turn from the church onto Leeland Heights Blvd."

"I know the property and have for 40 years. That turn can be deadly," he said. Member Mohamad Yasin agreed with LaRosa.

"It's a good project but there is a lot of congestion there it is a very busy road."

LACPC Chairman Weiner agreed and said he was "very uncomfortable not really happy with the plans."

Meanwhile, Weiner, on another topic, said another dollar store is planning to build in Lehigh Acres.

Members said that brings a total of 11 dollar stores in Lehigh Acres. In the past, Weiner and he board have been critical of so many dollar stores being built in the community.

He said planners appeared before the Architectural Review Board of the LACPC. But planners of the different new dollar stores have never appeared before the full board of the LACPC.

They are not required to, but planners must meet with at least one Lehigh civic group before going to the hearing examiner.

"This dollar store and I can't remember which one it is, will be constructed on the corner of Gunnery Rd. and 8th Street. It meets the zoning requirements and it can't be stopped," Weiner said.

The next meeting of the LACPC is at 6:30 p.m. April 10 in the Bravo Sheriff's Station on Homestead Rd. in the meeting room in the back of the building. The date is April 10.



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