A town hall meeting is scheduled for March 1 at Lehigh Senior High School on Gunnery Road with the topic of discussion being the possible incorporation of Lehigh Acres.
The Saturday morning meeting begins at 9:30 and is expected to last a couple of hours. The announcement of the first such town hall meeting concerning the possibility of incorporation of Lehigh Acres was announced at the Community Council of Lehigh Acres last week during its regularly scheduled meeting.
Tami Baker, president of the Community Council, said the group she represents has taken no position on incorporation and "remains neutral."
"This will be the first meeting of a group of people in Lehigh to discuss incorporation. People are invited who may support incorporation and those who are against incorporation," she said.
"The town hall will be an information board with speakers who can speak on the subject of incorporation. This board will act on its own and select its own members and leaders. It will take a life of its own. And as I said, the Community Council is only helping to form it. We are in no way supporting the effort to incorporate or not to incorporate; however, we will have some members of the group that will attend the meeting and report back to us to keep us informed," she said.
"This group will create a life of its own. People will be able to sign up for various committees. All the residents of Lehigh are invited to attend this first town hall about incorporation," she said.
This is the third time in the last dozen years that incorporation has come up before the public. The first time in the mid-1990s, a straw vote was held and the people of Lehigh said they did not favor incorporation.
Later, an attempt was made to get the topic on the ballot asking the people of Lehigh if the question should be made official on put on the ballot and the voters rejected that proposal.
Following that discussion of incorporation, the recession hit Lehigh hard and the incorporation effort was halted.
But now that Lehigh has become much larger, as many as between 80,000 and 100,000 people, according to census figures, there are many in the community who believe the people should talk about incorporation, whether it is prudent to do so or whether it is not.
In the past, the topic of incorporation became a fierce and vocal battle in Lehigh with several people on both sides of the issue.
And before the incorporation vote can even be put on the ballot, the local legislative delegation would have to approve it before it can move forward and to this date, no mention of incorporation has been made to any of the local lawmakers who represent Southwest Florida.
Baker, as president of the Community Council, the oldest group of concerned citizens in Lehigh, reiterated that the council has taken no stand on the issue.
If this new group were to decide incorporation was desired by the citizens of Lehigh, it couldn't go on the ballot anyway until 2016, which is also a presidential election year.
No emcee was mentioned, but Baker and others on the executive board of the Community Council, said there would be an emcee, but they did not know who he or she would be. They said speakers would have knowledge of the pros and cons of incorporation, its costs and its area of operations, whether it be small or large, and any other details concerning turning Lehigh into a city.
Baker encouraged Lehigh residents to attend the meeting and future meetings.
"My understanding is that they are informational meetings with those who can discuss the subject without emotions," she said. "They will select their officers and go from there. People for incorporation and people against and people who have not made up their minds are all invited to the town hall," she said.
"We need to educate ourselves before we all make a decision," she said. "I think they will come up with people who can tell us what we need to know, and then we as a community can make our decisions."