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Commissioner should ask ‘what will it cost?’

September 18, 2013
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the editor:

This is another letter taking pot-shots at the Lee County commissioners for not taking appropriate actions even after they have been advised by other knowledgeable contemporaries regarding zoning, subdivision and land development matters. It's starting to get easier to write about it because they're such huge targets for criticism from the taxpayer's perspective. Referring, of course, to a recent newspaper article about a 2006 decision that cost taxpayers in Lee County.

The article is vague on particulars so I'll make some assumptions as to how they put us in yet another fiscal crisis to the tune of nearly $4. million. Apparently the board denied a land development plan that was consistent with its (Lee County's) own zoning and land development ordinances. The county planning officials and Lee's hearing examiner told the commissioners seven years ago to approve the development. The "court" said the commissioners made a mistake and affirmed their position by denying a rehearing. When the horse is already dead why beat it?

The ordinances are regulatory for good reason and are meant to control use and dimension, among other development standards. The same ordinances are also permissive. When an owner/developer has met all of the standards set forth in the municipal regulations, they have a right to expect an affirmative approval result from the law makers. This is elementary.

Another assumption on my part is that the commissioners may have asserted that the proposed land use plan was an attempt to "spot zone" the property which is illegal by the state statutes that empower municipalities and counties to create and enforce their own regulations for development and land controls. Spot zoning occurs when an island of inappropriate uses is proposed in a sea of permitted uses.

The subject property is anything but an island; in fact it is nearly 100 acres. Land mass this size can accommodate reasonable mixed uses by placing moderate density residential uses next to existing low density residential uses which is followed by commercial activities to support the population expansion in the area.

Commissioner Pendergrass appears to have some handle on the situation based upon his comments in the article while Mann does not. The county pays a law firm to protect the county's and taxpayer's interests. Most counties pay an annual fee to its staff of attorneys to take care of day to day business. When issues are taken to court routine charges for services soon evaporate funds budgeted for legal services. When the attorney is asked to take legal action by the commissioners his answer is almost always "sure!" He's in business to make money too. Our commissioner should ask "what will it cost?" Not knowing the cost impact and in his own words (Mann) "that's a flimsy excuse at this point." Frank and I apparently agree on some things.

Anyway and ironically, the Lehigh Acres Citizen published an article on the same day about the search for candidates for the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Council, an elected position. This is apparently an advisory group who makes recommendations to the county commissioners relating to land and use issues.

Can you imagine how discouraging it must be for any qualified candidate to mortgage their integrity by being associated with our current county commissioners?

Dwain McLaughlin

Lehigh Acres



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