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BackgroundEdit

  • Republican candidate in 2006 for Florida's Lee County Commission, District 2.
  • Resides in Fort Myers, Florida.

InsightsEdit

Originally posted on November 3, 2006 [1]Edit

Because our climate and natural beauty continue to attract large numbers of visitors and new residents, Lee County, once again, stands at a crossroads.

In order for our future to be as bright as our past, we must do four important things:

  • manage growth in the public interest rather than private profit,
  • zealously protect our natural environment,
  • levy taxes only to the extent of current needs and our ability to efficiently spend and not to build large reserves to meet hypothetical needs during some future “rainy day,”
  • refocus the county bureaucracy toward accomplishing ambitious goals rather than avoiding controversy and difficult choices.

We confronted these same issues 20 years ago in the face of explosive and largely unregulated growth, a threatened environment and an unfocused county government.

Faced with an obvious crisis, an unprecedented effort was made to engage the best minds, locally and nationally, to come up with a realistic plan to map our future.

For the first time, the county attempted to comprehensively understand and direct future growth patterns.

The growth management plans adopted then were a giant step forward, but have met with mixed results.

For the past 20 years, county officials have struggled to maintain and update the original Lee Plan.

While much of the original plan remains intact, the fact remains that Lee County has not made another concerted effort to plan for its future in light of the many new problems and opportunities that demand it, and now, obvious shortcomings in the original plan.

Nor has the momentum toward aggressively meeting the demands of growth with concurrently built roads and other public infrastructure been maintained.

Here are some areas in which our growth management efforts have come up short:

  • The Lee Plan is weak in “place-making”. It does very little to ensure the creation of tree-shaded walkable neighborhoods that were once commonplace, but are rarely created by developers today.

It does little to identify and protect the unique characteristics of our varied communities from the one-size-fits-all mentality that produces strings of isolated walled-off subdivisions.

  • The protection of our groundwater resource areas, our native environment and our rural heritage still depends on rules and initiatives that are only as strong as the county commissioners sitting in office at any given time.
  • Urban and suburban development patterns are poised to encroach into the 14,000 acres of pristine pine flat woods lying north of Cape Coral, in the northeast corner of the county where the Babcock Ranch development proposal is spawning similar proposals in Lee County rural areas and in the southeast DR/GR areas where new residential and road proposals seek to introduce new urban or suburban development into reserved rural areas and groundwater recharge areas.
  • Contrary to an original goal, development has been allowed to sprawl, using land inefficiently, straining roads with longer and more frequent trips and disrupting the natural environment unnecessarily.
  • Coordination of planning objectives between the county and our several cities has not been demanded or required.

As a result, development interests have been allowed to play one jurisdiction off against another to the detriment of balanced and consistent growth management.

With renewed vigor, aggressive leadership and newer planning techniques that were little known and untried when our current growth plan was first developed, it is possible for these shortcoming to be overcome.

For example, development levels now permitted in our rural areas can be permanently rearranged to maximize preservation of undeveloped lands by concentrating existing development rights on small portions of that land while preserving the rest.

Such a plan was recently adopted in St. Lucie County and has been honored by an Award of Excellence by the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association. The challenge for County officials is to seek a better vision for our future.

With new enthusiasm, new energy and a new attitude towards environmental protectionism.

As a candidate for the county commission, my goal is to be a part of the team that faces that challenge.

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