Many residents of Florida cherish their rural neighborhoods that give them freedom from urban crowding, traffic problems, flooding and water quality. The interests of these residents often run into a different trend: the desire of municipalities to provide quality housing for their residents.
An example of this land use conflict was provided by a recent vote of the Lee County Board of Commissions to rezone 216 acres to permit construction of 201 units of single family housing.
The land was originally zoned for Agriculture, an A-2 classification. According to a news report, the developers of a project, called Leetana, petitioned the county board to re-zone the land to permit single family dwellings. The rezoning application was submitted to a hearing examiner for an assessment of the environmental and land use impacts of the proposed rezoning. The examiner found that the project would not be destructive to the character of the Bayshore community and that the site design accommodates the flow of surface water. The examiner also found that the proposal provides additional water quality treatment of water that flows into Chapel Branch Creek.
Opponents of the project, mostly residents of the rural portion of Lee County, said that they feared that the plan would convert a predominantly rural area to an area of large single family homes. They also feared the high density of the proposal. One opponent called putting 201 homes on 216 acres “irresponsible.”
Despite the intense opposition, the county board approved the proposal by a 4-0 vote. The zoning of the land was changed from AG-2 to Residential Planned Development, or RPD. Approval of the rezoning is merely the first step in the development process. The developer must obtain approval of its specific layout of streets and building lots, sewer treatment and related matters before construction can begin. The opponents did not say whether they would use this time period to pursue litigation.