Lehigh community activist and executive at Landex Resorts International Inc. in Lehigh Acres - Ruth Ann Anglickis - says she has some questions for the planning department of Lee County and is trying to get some answers.
Her questions involve the ongoing Lehigh land use plan which is nearing completion and will be sent to the Lee County Commission to be included in its overall master plan for the future.
She said she would like to know if the '"special district," which she refers to as employment centers are still in the plan for the Milwaukee and Homestead corridor.
Ruth Ann Anglickis
"I particularly am questioning the 228 acres on Milwaukee Blvd. and the other centers on Homestead Rd. near the bend in the roadway, that show as a taupe color on the map. I understand the taupe colors by the turnabout do have a plan," Anglickis said.
She said she was informed these "employment centers" were taken out of the Lehigh plan because they needed more description and there wasn't enough time to add this to the plan before the plan needs to be adopted by the county commissioners, which could be within the next couple of months.
Anglickis said she told the planning department in a letter that without the "employment centers," there will be no new housing.
"Without new housing, there will be no new shopping/entertainment, etc. Employment comes as a first priority for Lehigh Acres," she said.
If the adoption of the plan needs to be delayed until the complete description as to what is and what is not allowed, then the plan should be delayed from being adopted, Anglickis said.
She continued: "Or, the 'employment centers' should be left in with notation they require additional planning information, but in no scenario, should they be left out of the initial plan."
Anglickis said that for a future development plan to be successful, it must have employment centers.
To date, Lehigh Acres gets no "referrals" on employment centers because the community is not incorporated. The referrals have historically gone to incorporated cities within Lee County.
"If we have these 'employment centers,' it is hoped we will get referrals, or do we have to wait to be incorporated?" Anglickis, who is also a spokeswoman for One Voice, said.
The Milwaukee - Homestead corridor is the "New Lehigh Acres" and is needed for the future of Lehigh Acres, Anglickis went on to say.
Paul O'Connor, director of the Division of Planning for the county in answer to Anglickis' questions said the regulations needed to allow us to use the employment center designation have not been developed yet.
"Without the regulations giving a property the employment center designation does nothing," he said.
"We do have a contract with a planning/engineering company that includes these new regulations as part of the projects Scope of Work. Once we develop the standards for these centers we will be able to use them in the plans that have already been developed and the additional new plans that are also part of the contract.
"It should be noted that the plans developed for the Milwaukee/Homestead corridor, as well as the other areas, are to be used via voluntary participation. Designating a property as an economic center does not necessitate that they develop that way. It should also be noted that a properties underlying zoning is still a viable option for the land owner and development of that property for employment, jobs, and retail is not precluded, he said.