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A development planned for Gunnery Road

May 21, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

A major development including 480 residential units and some 265,000 square feet of commercial space is on the drawing board for Lehigh and promoters of the new community will be at the Lehigh Acres Architectural Planning & Zoning Review Board meeting in June. The meeting on June 26 begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be in the East District, Lee County Sheriff's Office meeting room at 1299 Homestead Road It is open to the public.

The presentation had been originally planned for this week, according to Greg Diserio, chairman of the local board, who said they had changed plans due to conflicts in scheduling.

The presentation of this huge project is planned to be made by Tina Ekblad, planning director of Morris-Depew & Associates of Fort Myers.

The project is located on three parcels at the intersection of Buckingham and Gunnery roads

The local architectural, planning & zoning board will be asked to give its approval to the project's rezoning the parcels from Agricultural District (AG2) to a mixed used planned development.

Only one of the parcels actually lies within the Lehigh Acres unincorporated community, which adjoins the Buckingham area.

The actual address of the project is 7990, 7431, 7350 Buckingham Rd.

Ekblad will give the presentation in behalf of the applicant, H. Max Lummis IV, managing member of Buckingham Village, LLC and LPH LLC., located in Bonita Springs.

Working with the applicants from the county is Anthony Palermo of the Planning Department.

This is one of the first places to present the program to the Lehigh board. The project has not been presented to the Community Development or Lee County Hearing Examiner or any other public group.

Presently the project is in the zoning phase and the applicant does not have architectural designs for the presentation.

The applicant says there are specific commercial design standards for the Lehigh planning community and agrees to abide by the commercial design standards included in Chapter 33 of the Lee County Land Development Code.

If this project is eventually approved, the applicant agrees to disclose that information at the time of development order.

Property applicant H. Max Lummis IV paid the Lehigh architectural board the $150 fee for the project hearing because of its size. Smaller projects that come before the board are only charged $50.

The types of housing (family homes, condos, townhouses) were not disclosed in a submittal to the Lehigh Acres Architectural & Zoning Review Board. Greg Diserio is chairman of the review board, which is made up of about 10 people.

The development area in question nearly 96 acres - contains mostly pine trees and upland hardwood forests and there are also patches of herbaceous Australian pines. According to plans, the indigenous preserve will encompass almost 17 acre of pine flatwoods habitat.

According the Bentley Crossings management plan, there are gopher tortoises on the property and there are protection requirements of the Lee County LDC, which require that a tortoise relocation plan be provided.

The Bentley Crossings group was given a species survey in December of last year by an environmental scientist from Boylan Environmental Consultants Inc. The site contained 31 active burrows, 15 inactive burrows and 13 abandoned burrows. All burrows were flagged, labeled and GPS surveyed, according to the Bentley submittal plan.

The project is anticipated to impact approximately nine and eight inactive gopher tortoise burrows. The remaining burrows will remain intact with the onsite preserve and conservation easement area and the relocation area will be determined at the time of permitting, according to the submittal report.

For the development to move forward, a conservation permit will be acquired in order to relocate any impacted tortoises' offsite. If no recipient sites areas are available with Lee County at the time of permitting, the tortoises may be relocated to an approved site.

It should be noted that prior to construction, if permitted, the property will be resurveyed for gopher tortoises no longer than four weeks prior to site clearing. And the preserve area will be survey staked, according to the submittal report.

A vegetation clearing permit will be issued for minor clearing for the exotic removal and the installation of the tortoise fencing to be installed prior to construction.

A physical relocation of the tortoises will be done by a qualified gopher tortoise agent and any excavation will occur manually to ensure no injury to the tortoise. All captured tortoises will be measured and their "scutes" will be notched according to the prearranged numbering system per the recipient site requirements, and then placed in crates and moved over to the gopher tortoise on-site preserve area, according to the submittal report.

When and after the project is permitted, a barrier will be placed between the preserve and the entry roads which will consist of a spreader swale adjacent to the preserves with a 301 linear foot long retaining wall and sidewalk running along the edge of the road and a four foot high handrail will be installed. A perimeter berm will also be installed adjacent to the preserves and a Type D curb will also be installed on the top of the berm adjacent to the parking lot for the buildings, according to the submittal application.

The survey had to be conducted because the gopher tortoise is listed as a threatened species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife, which protects the tortoise and the tortoise burrows.

No burrowing owls were found on the property and no other protected species were found in the species survey.

Some details of the buildings - both residential and commercial space - will likely be provided at the hearing before the zoning review board in June.

The Lehigh Acres Architectural & Review Board meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. It offers suggestions for zoning requests which are sent to county officials, including the hearing examiner, and also to the Lehigh Community Council.



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