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Land use change rejected by City Council

June 4, 2014
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Residents near Four Mile Ecological Park turned out in force at Monday's City Council meeting to oppose a land use change request from single-family residential for a 200-acre tract by owners pitching the idea of a mix of single- and multi-family units on 78 of those acres.

About two-thirds of the property along the river would be designated for natural resources/preservation adjacent to Eco Park with the possibility for future expansion of the park.

If approved, the request would have been sent to state agencies for review and approval before being sent back to council for final approval within 180 days.

Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consulting, representing owners Brandenburg Properties of Florida, made a point in his presentation to council hoping to salve the opposition.

"We are proposing single-family homes along the canal and multi-family units at the west end next to a more intense multi-family development," said Mazurkiewicz. "You will hear testimony about quality of life, property values, impact on infrastructure and the like, but these single-family homes along the canal will be expensive homes with direct access to the (Caloosahatchee) river without a bridge. These will enhance property values in the area."

Mazurkiewicz suggested that the project is compliant with the city's comprehensive plan and would have a lower impact on the infrastructure than the current designation for 420 single-family units.

At one point Mayor Marni Sawicki gazed at the large group and asked how many were in opposition to the change request. Everyone stood in unison. Asking who was in favor of the request, only Mazurkiewicz and one other representing Brandenburg Properties stood.

About 10 residents came to the podium to voice their concerns as they did at an earlier Planning & Zoning Commission meeting which voted 5-2 to deny the request.

Councilmember Jim Burch moved to deny the request, seconded by Lenny Nesta. After council members took turns outlying their objections to the proposal, the proceedings took a sudden turn.

Mazurkiewicz said he would withdraw the request and work with the neighborhood residents on more definitive plans for the project with the intent of finalizing the project to their satisfaction before resubmitting an application to council.

Satisfied with that, Burch withdrew his motion but Nesta refused to drop the matter and moved to continue the denial which council ceremonially passed by a vote of 5-3. Saying the vote was a moot point and knowing that it likely will be resubmitted at some point, Burch, Richard Leon and Rana Erbrick cast the dissenting votes.

"This is not the right plan for this property," said Burch. "The state rejected it before in 2005. It was a bad plan then and it's a bad plan now."

The property was placed in the Paradise Preserve Sub-District in 2005 and developers were restricted to a maximum of 420 dwelling units on the property.

Council addressed another land use change request on property located in the 3500 block of Burnt Store Road in northwest Cape. Owners requested changing the designation from low density residential and open space to commercial/professional.

The property was annexed by the city in 2008 and its use as a dirt mine was complete.

Staff recommended the request be transmitted to state agencies for review and approval. Planning & Zoning unanimously approved the request previously.

Discussion points included possible interest in the property for a retirement home.

With no opposition testimony, council quickly passed the request 8-0.

In other matters before council, unanimous approval was given on a resolution for the city to prepare and submit the Fire Services Assessment billing over to the Lee County Property Appraiser to be collected as non ad valorem taxes on the 2015 property tax bill. The city already has billed property owners on its own for 2014. The 2015 property tax bill will be in mailboxes in November and due in March.

The next council meeting is Monday, June 9.



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