Edd Weiner, who has been president of the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corporation (LACPP), surprised members of the planning group on July 10 by announcing that he was resigning and moving north, to Punta Gorda in Charlotte County. He came to Lehigh from Florida's east coast.
"It's my last night here," he said. "I'm heading north," he laughed. For many, though that means really north in the U.S., but Weiner said he was moving to Charlotte County for business and personal reasons.
The agenda was short, an appearance and a few words by Tony Palmero, a member of Lee County Planning Dept., who along with chief planner Kathy Ebaugh, have been guiding the LACPP through a process to come up with a plan for Lehigh for the next 25 years.
Palmero said that there was a large crowd of at least 50 people who had attended the previous Saturday workshop put on by the county planning people at the East County Regional Library. The plan is near being completed and will be headed for the Lee County Commission for approval later this year, maybe before summer ends.
Palmero said another workshop is planned on Saturday, Aug. 10 at the East County Regional Library from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., as had been the practice for past meetings.
The agenda had specified an election of officers, including president to replace Weiner to take place, but two or three members were not present so the election of officers will take place on August 14 in the Bravo Station's Lee County Sheriff's Office off of Plaza Drive in the rear of the building.
The sessions are open to the public and businesses and developers of future enterprise in Lehigh are expected to come before the group before they go the hearing examiner. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and last no longer than two hours.
Weiner announced that Dr. Mickey Jones' Optimum Fitness Center project was approved by the Lee County Commission. He said he understood that a new seafood restaurant was coming to Lehigh, but he didn't have any details as to its name of planned location. Nobody has come before the group to offer details.
While there were no new business items on the agenda, the dozen or so members spent time talking about problems in Lehigh and how they believe Lehigh continues to be ignored by the county.
There was talk about incorporation by some of the members who said it was time again to begin thinking about Lehigh residents ruling themselves by becoming incorporated.
There is no official movement underway to push the incorporation of a community of 90,000 people plus. Weiner told the group that the best time to get an item on the ballot would be the 2016 presidential election.
"You will have more people out to vote then because of the presidential election, and whether people are Democrat or Republican, they will turn out in greater numbers and that would be a great time to put incorporation on the ballot," he said.
"But if you are going to begin the incorporation movement again in Lehigh, you need to start now and get your groups together to inform the resident of Lehigh about incorporation.
Commissioner Frank LaRosa agreed.
"Everyone has got to be on the same sheet," he said. By that he explained, that not only the LACPP, but supporters would have to come from all the civic and fraternal groups in Lehigh coming together, including the local chamber of commerce and clubs and organizations.
The last time there was a push for incorporation was just before the Great Recession. It was blasted by opponents who said they couldn't afford for Lehigh to become incorporated. And within a year or so, the economy soured and Lehigh was one of the main communities in the nation that suffered the most.
Weiner told the group that he thought there was a good future coming for Lehigh Acres and hopefully the people "would be in lock and step by 2016 to vote to incorporate the community.
"But it will take a lot of work," Weiner said.
Many on the board talked about the dozens of empty homes in Lehigh with grass overgrown waist high, houses that were foreclosed on. Also, some business buildings faced floreclosure and the buildings, left empty, are unkept and tall with grass and weeds.
"But nobody cuts the grass and keeps up the property," one of the members opted. Weiner noted that it takes two years sometimes before a foreclosure can be processed.
Weiner and others on the board also commented on the reply from Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann who took opposition to remarks made by Edd Weiner at the June meeting when he complained about what he considered was a lack of code enforcement officers in Lehigh. Mann shot back with comments that there were enough code enforcement people in Lehigh and they scheduled work seven days a week. He even wrote an opinion piece for The Citizen about his strong feelings that Lehigh was getting the attention it needed.
But others objected to potholes in the roads and violations they see every day and every weekend in Lehigh. Some even volunteered to ride with a code enforcement officer.
Weiner was praised for his seven years of service to the LACPP. He also served on the architectural board which met with prospective developers before they came before the LACPP.
""You're going to be missed," said Steve Conti, one of the members.
"It's been a real honor to serve you and the people of Lehigh," Weiner responded.
Weiner has been a strong supporter of Lehigh, often making remarks over the years that the county doesn't treat Lehigh like it does other areas of the county.
Outspoken, Weiner has brought about controversy from time to time. But he also enjoyed chiding people, including members of the LACPP, such as member Frank LaRosa.
"But we've been friends," LaRosa told Weiner at the meeting.
Because of Weiner's departure, there is a missing member now on the commission. Anyone who is interested in becoming a member should send in a short resume and letter about why they would like to serve. Send that information to the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. at PO Box 1517, Lehigh Acres, FL, 33936.
Tammy Baker, the treasurer of the LACPP said she will pick up applications and get in touch with those interested in maybe attending the August meeting.
Weiner loved to joke, often telling developers not to plant so many palm trees in their projects.
Once he said he was serious because palm trees don't provide much shade while other trees do. After being teased so long for his comments against palm trees, Weiner stopped talking about palm trees.
He became president of the LACPP following the resignation of Bo Turbeville who was among its first presidents.
Over the years, Weiner has been called a champion for Lehigh, always looking for ways to make improvements in the community and chiding the county for the lack of attention that he considered was detrimental for Lehigh.
"But it will be a great community one day," he laughed at the end of the meeting.