Coming up with a land use community plan for Lehigh Acres may have one of the biggest challenges for county planners over the past few years because Lehigh, which is not incorporated, has 97 square miles of platted land.
"It was all platted back in the 50s. It was one of the first communities that designed itself with mostly all platted residential lots of quarter-acre and half acres residential lots. That's a real challenge for planners," said Kathy Ebaugh, principal planner for Lee County.
But with the help of the community through meetings through the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. (LACPP) and the monthly workshops at the Lehigh library, Ebaugh says they have come up with a land use plan that they think is what the residents have said they want for Lehigh.
Kathy Ebaugh explains Lehigh’s land use map. At right, Lehigh land use map shows commercial and residential areas
She presented the latest updated site plan to the LACPP at their meeting on June 12 and talked of density plans and noted that the Homestead Road area is the "core area" of Lehigh and that seems to be what residents want to continue.
She talked about possible plans in the future for the Luckett Extension which would run from I-75 through Lehigh.
"That's what we need for sure, another way to get into Lehigh besides Lee Boulevard," said Linda Carter, a member of the LACPC.
"But that may be years off, but we are showing it here as you will want to think of it as Lehigh continues to build out," Ebaugh said.
But what is important now is that one of the final meetings concerning the Lehigh Acres mixed use land plan will be discussed on Saturday, June 29, at the East County Regional Library meeting room, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and continuing to 1:30 p.m.
"It's a must that everyone interested be there," echoed Edd Weiner, president of the LACPP.
Ebaugh suggested that residents bring their neighbors and friends and see what is in store for Lehigh over the next 25 years, a time span, she said, that could see the complete build out of Lehigh Acres.
"It's been a huge challenge when you're dealing with platted properties," she reiterated.
Mohamed J. Yasin, another member of the LACPP, agreed and said the people who own the lots have a vested interest. The only way we can get properties to come together in a unit is by putting large properties together, which is difficult.
Steve Pinto, another member of the LACPC, told Ebaugh that he finally understood what planners were doing and that he understood the plan being put forth for Lehigh Acres.
He also urged that people of Lehigh turn out for the Saturday morning meeting.
"Our goals have been to make Lehigh a self-sustaining community and long term to make it viable for a place to live, work and play and not have to leave Lehigh and travel to Fort Myers or other areas for services.
"This is a good starting point," Yasin said. Ebaugh said this is what planners have reflected what the people's vision of Lehigh has been and residents have told to them what they want in the future.
"It is so important for the people who care about the future Lehigh to come to our meeting on June 29," Ebaugh said. "Be there, take your friends and neighbors, let's fill the room."
After any tweets or small changes, the plan will end up with the county commissioners who will vote to add it to overall county plan.