While Lehigh Acres Community Planning Panel member Frank LaRosa objected to the demise of the planning board and a merger with the Lehigh Acres Community Council, he said he would try to attend this past Monday's meeting of the Community Council when nine new officers were expected to be added to its board. When asked by the other 12 members of the LACPP at last week's meeting if he would like to join in the merger, he said yes. It was almost comical inasmuch as other members almost in unison urged LaRosa to say yes to the merger. He had objected over and over during the meeting.
"Okay I say yes," he said.
But when the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Council voted to move forward with a merger with the Community Council, the vote was 12 to 1 with LaRosa voting no.
Chairman Thomas Pfuner conducted the meeting and said the merger would be a good thing for the community.
The 13 members of the board includes a few members of the group who are already members of the Community Council, so there is room for the remainder of the group to become full-fledged members of the Community Council, said Tami Baker, a LACPP and Community Council member who was at last Wednesday night's meeting.
While many believed the LACPP would vote to absolve itself at the meeting, results were given out by those who served on a merger board meeting with the Community Council as how to make the so-called marriage of the two groups possible.
At times, the LACPP debate became loud with LaRosa saying he didn't think it was fair for the LACPP to not exist any longer. He reminded the group that he was the first "elected" member by the community to be on the board almost a decade ago.
LaRosa is correct as being the sole member who was at the Lehigh Senior High School the night the Lehigh Acres planning group was formed. Several, maybe 20 to 40 people have come and gone over the years as members of the LACPP, but LaRosa has remained and under three chairmanships, the first being Bo Turbeville and the second being Edd Weiner, who resigned last month and moved to Charlotte County to be closer to his work, and most recently Thomas Pfuner.
A summary of the conclusions of the couple of meetings between the LACPP and the Lehigh Acres Community Council (LACC), noted that "it is the committee's feeling and findings that the proposed merger between LACC and LACPP is a sincere, thoughtful initiative and is looked at favorably from both organizations. Both realize the enormous benefits in merging that will, both expedite and, forward our common goals for Lehigh and the community (in particular, with Lee County officials). The time and talents both organizations have provided over the years are very much appreciated, and that same talent and energy are welcomed and very much needed in our quest to work cohesively toward our common goals. Lehigh Acres is worth all of our hard work, and the benefits of the merger are immeasurable.
"It's time to roll up our sleeves together and put Lehigh on the map - literally and as a destination and metaphorically."
All the members of the LACPP were present last Wednesday night and they said they would try to be at this past Monday night's meeting where they were expected to be invited to join and become full-fledged members and officers. Those who had meeting conflicts gave permission to Mohamad Yasin and Tami Baker, both also on the Lehigh Acres Community Council, to represent them and ask to be admitted to the organization through the merger.
The request for the two groups to come together came last month when Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann went to the meeting of the LACPP and said voices from Lehigh were confusing to county officials.
"We need one group speaking for Lehigh. I think you as the LACPP have done a great job in bringing about the Lehigh Acres land use plan which was your mission. But now it is time for you to work together with the Community Council and that group can become the one voice to us in Fort Myers," Mann said.
The Architectural Review Board of the planning panel would continue, but become an arm of the Community Council likely with a new name. It is a group that listens to those who want to change local zoning laws and to those who propose development in Lehigh.
Things that were to be worked out at this past Monday night's meeting were how the new members would be brought in and under what terms of membership, meaning that they would serve terms that would expire in 2013, 2014, and 2015. After that, they would be able to seek reelection to the Community Council.
The Community Council may have to change its bylaws to make this all work, but that was to be discussed at this week's meeting.
In a special note to the LACPP, proposed by the two groups, working out a merger between the two stated that "this plan provided for nine LAPCC members to be immediately seated onto the council board. At the September meeting will be submitted to our Elections Committee which will be formed that evening.
"Existing LACPP members would be given the opportunity to apply for the vacant LACC elected seats. No other applicants shall be considered by the LACC until after the Sept. 16 meeting of the Lehigh Acres Community Council."
Policy bylaws and committee descriptions and responsibilities will be provided to the new members coming into the merger by Jim Kreger, the president of the Community Council.
Meetings of the Community Council are held on the third Monday night of each month at the Lehigh Acres Sheriff's Substation office on Homestead Rd. They gather in the large conference room in the rear of the building. All meetings are open to the public.
The Community Council has been an ongoing active organization in Lehigh for several years.
Meetings are held the third Monday of each month between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. and the public is invited to attend and participate in the meetings.
Members of the group represent most of the organizations in Lehigh Acres and that is one of the reasons why Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann asked for the merger between the planning group and the council.
"If you talk to us with one voice, then we understand what Lehigh needs," Mann said.
Tami Baker, a member of both groups, said the Community Council needs new blood and a merger is a good thing for the community.
As it appeared this past weekend, all remaining nine members of the LACPP were set to become members of the Community Council this past Monday night. Terms and expirations dates would have to be worked out by the Community Council.
The last meeting of the LACPP will be Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. when it is expected to vote itself out of existence.