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Group pushing for change in charter

December 27, 2017
By MELISSA BILL (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah spoke at the Lehigh Acres Community Council's monthly meeting, and the council announced that its first zoning meeting is set.

Judah, who served from 1988 to 2012 in the District 3 county seat, is supporting a grassroots effort called Lee Vote for Freedom. At the Dec. 18 meeting, he told the Lehigh council that the mission of the movement is to get a referendum on the November 2018 ballot that amends the Lee County Charter.

The proposed amendment would make the county commission races non-partisan and open up the primaries to all eligible voters, similar to the process for electing the Lee County School Board.

Article Photos

Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah speaks at the Lehigh Acres Community Council meeting on Dec. 18.

MELISSA BILL

"Our goal is to collect 30,000 petitions within six months, so we can place a referendum on the 2018 ballot to switch from a partisan to non-partisan voting process," he said.

According to Judah, the problem with having a partisan vote is the temptation for special interest groups to pump funds into the campaigns of opposing candidates to undermine their chances.

"It's special interest versus public interest. They can close the primary by using a loophole in the state electorate poles. They find some write-in candidate to run just to put their name on the ballot," he said. "This leaves special interest groups in the seat of running county government. It shouldn't be a closed primary for that reason."

Another point Judah brought up was the tendency of local government to look the other way in regards to special interest groups, such as sugar farming.

"They're not regulated like they should be. The toxic run-off from their farming is polluting our estuaries and the Caloosahatchee River," he said.

Lee County voters interested in signing the petition in support of the proposed charter amendment, or those who want more information about the group's efforts, can visit www.leevoterfreedom.com.

Council President Rick Anglickis announced that the first zoning and review board meeting for the board will take place on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. At the November meeting, the council voted unanimously to start its monthly meetings 30 minutes early to allow for zoning hearings before each of its meetings.

"Our first hearing will be from an organization looking into the development of a communication tower here in Lehigh," he said.

According to Anglickis, a second project will also be presented. The group already sat before the Lehigh Acres Architectural, Planning and Zoning Review Board, but was unhappy with the outcome.

"While we don't vote to approve projects, we are here to offer advice and suggest changes prior to it going before the county," he said.

The Lehigh Acres Architectural, Planning and Zoning Review Board is a separate entity and has been serving in a similar function - as an advisory board before projects are presented to the county.

Mohamed Yasin, the council's chair, spoke about the Develop Lehigh initiative going on in the community. Created by the Horizon Council and the Lee County Economic Development Office, the initiative is a commercial revitalization task force aimed at finding ways to revitalize areas of Lee.

"I went to a recent community development meeting and one of the projects proposed was a Starbucks here in Lehigh Acres," he said. "The interest is there from the company, now they are just looking for the right location. Anyone who knows of an open prime spot should let me know prior to their next meeting."

Joan Cunningham, president of Incorporate Lehigh Inc., gave an update on the group's efforts.

"We will be holding our second town hall meeting on Jan. 13. The location is still to be determined," she said.

The Lehigh council is accepting applications for new council members. Those interested in serving can attend the next monthly meeting to fill out an application form or to receive additional information.

The next meeting is Jan. 15 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lee County Sheriff's Office East District substation, at 1301 Homestead Road N. Visit www.lehighacrescommunitycouncil.com for details.

 
 

 

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