A Summary of The Community & Membership Meeting
The Estero Park and Recreation Center
Thursday, September 21, 2023.
Allan Bowditch, Engage Estero’s Chief Communications Officer, opened the meeting. President Jim Gilmartin could not attend due to personal matters.
Although a very high attendance was anticipated, the severe storm that occurred just before the start of the meeting deterred several of those who had signed up for the meeting. Hopefully, those individuals and others will review this report and the YouTube video of the meeting.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Allan Bowditch and Terry Flanagan, Chief Business Administrator, discussed various aspects of the developments in greater Estero.
- Full details of all the developments (residential and commercial) were highlighted to illustrate the increasing urbanization in our area. Details of the buildings and road and bike path developments that will likely occur in the coming years, the latter as part of the Village’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), can be viewed on the following links. https://www.esterotoday.com/gecr2023qtr3/ and https://estero-fl.gov/cip/
- Allan explained following discussion with Dan Delisi, Land Use Planning and Water/Environmental Policy Consultant, that land rights that were established in the 80s and 90s in Lee County, which go way back before mixed-use designations in the 2010s, make it difficult to control the numbers of units being built.
- It happens to be the case that Florida has robust property rights laws, among the strongest in the nation. Once something is given, it can’t be taken away without replacement value.
- It doesn’t matter when Estero was incorporated; the Village inherited the land use rights given before incorporation.
- While that does mean the public and the Village Planning, Zoning, and Design Board (PZDB) cannot stop the developments on land already provided with zoning rights, certain aspects can be addressed.
- These can include such issues as Design, Height, Density, Layout, Quality, Color, Setbacks, open space, Landscaping, Lighting, Traffic and Entry/Exit Concerns, Environmental, water run-off, and wildlife issues.
- The citizens of Estero believe they need an opportunity to make comments at an early stage in the development planning process. 92% of residents said “Yes” to the question- Should Engage Estero formally request that the Village require developers to present their plans to a nonbinding committee (open to the public) before formally submitting plans to the Planning, Zoning, and Design Board? Engage Estero discussed this issue with the Village Management and the Mayor.
- Following concerns from the public that investigations into traffic flow around the Woodfield development (Hwy41/ Coconut Road) would not address the overall impact on Estero from the various developments taking place, Engage Estero took up this issue with the Village Management. We confirm that a comprehensive traffic investigation will be conducted within 12 months. This will
- Include traffic estimates for those developments on vacant parcels.
- Will incorporate the impact from areas outside Estero.
- Will consider the peak traffic density.
- Will include workers and services entering the Village.
- Will be updated every 4-5 years.
- The intent is to identify issues and provide recommendations to improve traffic flow and safety.
- Terry Flanagan explained the meaning of mixed-use. This is an option that several developers have applied for as a re-zoning request. Contrary to popular opinion, this has several significant benefits for the community. Mixed-use allows the developer to incorporate commercial business options within the residential plans. This helps to reduce the number of vehicles used when there are opportunities for residents to shop and visit medical facilities, banks, etc., where they reside.
- The Village’s Capital Improvement Plan will feature road widening along Williams Road; River Ranch Road improvements, East Corkscrew Road multi-use paths and lighting; Broadway West improvements, Bike Path and Pedestrian improvements on Corkscrew Road, Sandy Lane, and Williams Road. Full details can be found on the above links.
- Terry Flanagan commented on the definitions used by the Village regarding the Village Center and Village Hub. This was shown pictorially (see presentation slides on the website) and covers the area from Broadway in the north to Coconut Road in the South, Hwy 41 in the west, and US 71 in the east.
- Attendees were reminded of the informative Public Forum in October: A Public Forum on Estero’s Future; Learn the Impact of Urbanization & Development and How It Will Affect Greater Estero. With Support from the FGCU Water School, October 25, 2023, from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM, at FGCU’s Cohen Student Center Ballroom. You can sign up on esterotoday.com
John Quin, President of The Estero Forever Foundation, then spoke about the Foundation and the developments taking place on the land purchased by the Village on the northeast corner of Via Coconut and Willams Road and the 62acre site north and south of the Estero River north of Corkscrew Road and east of Hwy41.
- The Forever Foundation is a Non-Profit Public Foundation that mobilizes resources, including financial assets and people. It encourages residents to give their time, talent, and treasure to supporting Non-Profits and other greater Estero Community organizations.
- John explained that the Foundation had helped to keep the golf driving range open with the help of the Village and with assistance from one full-time, two part-time staff, and eight volunteers. It has become even more popular with golfers, who have expressed a desire to see it continue. It will likely remain open into March 2024.
- Based on the Village’s Private Public Partnership approach, the Village partners with private companies to create and operate a service. This helps create an income asset supported by users, not taxpayers. It is a shared risk with a private enterprise that helps keep our signature active lifestyle image.
The private companies that will be involved in developing recreational activities include Chicken n Pickle and the Texas-based High 5 Entertainment company. The facilities thus planned would involve Pickleball, Ten-pin bowling, and axe throwing, to name a few. It is hoped there will be further public involvement to address the interests of residents.
- The “Estero on the River project was also summarized. Purchased in 2019, preliminary bridge and path planning was completed in 2020 -2021. Hurricane IAN, Irma, and an eagle’s nest delayed further developments in the park. The 2023/2024 Plan – Includes Invasive Plant Removal, North of the River, Parking and Restrooms, a Bridge across the river, Fencing on Corkscrew Road and Highway 41, and One Main Walking Path. There will also be a walking entry from Corkscrew Road.
- The Estero Forever Plan 2023/2024 will involve -cleaning up debris, removing safety hazards, and offering educational, social, and recreational programs at the Community Center.
- The long-range plans involve: –
- North of the River: It will be the primary entryway to the South of the River Park by Bridge. Other plans are being discussed, including a Village Government Center, Commercial development on the river, restaurants, and a Cultural Arts center. Only time will tell. A lot can be done with 40 acres.
- South of the river: Botanical Gardens, Educational Centers, Walkways, and Gathering / Picnicking places are all goals for the future.
Allan Bowditch gave the president’s Report in Jim Gilmartin’s absence.
- Jim Gilmartin spoke to the Village Manager, Steve Sarkozy, expressing the need for an opportunity to ensure public input on newly proposed developments before them being heard at the PZDB meetings. This should also apply to new recreational developments. While some meetings of this type have occurred, they do not appear to occur regularly.
- Tony Carangelo has been working with FGCU’s lecturers and students to help design graphics and maps of the Village that will illustrate where and what developments are occurring in our locality. This will provide hitherto complex information in a far more accessible format for residents to follow and understand. It is hoped that this work will be largely completed by early 2024.
- Engage Estero will highlight on our website esterotoday.com
- A veteran’s information section that can be easily accessed and provides valuable guidance on many issues Veterans require help with. Engage Estero has also been working “behind the scenes” to provide more recognition for Veterans.
- Upcoming Meetings:
- The Public Forum on Estero’s Future will occur on October 25th at 6 p.m. at FGCU’s Cohen Student Center Ballroom. You can sign up at esterotoday.com
- The moderator is Prof Shelton Weeks, FGCU Professor of Economics and Finance.
- The Panel includes:
- Daniel Delisi, Land Use Planning and Water/Environmental Policy Consultant.
- Ross McIntosh, Senior Commercial Real Estate Broker and Respected Speaker.
- Steve Sarkozy, Village of Estero’s Manager.
- Jim Wallace, the Key Principal of Jim Wallace & Associates.
- November 15th at 6 p.m. at Estero Recreation Center. The meeting will include
- Codty Pierce, Calusa Waterkeeper, will discuss the implications of Urbanization in Estero and how we can manage its impact.
- Chris Wittman. Captains for Clean Water will discuss the Threats to the Everglades and why that is important for Estero.
- December 7th at 5:30 p.m. The Estero Community Center:
- The speaker will be Dr. Adam Molloy, Director of Planning, Growth, and Capacity for the Lee County Schools. He will discuss what is being planned and considered in our areas to address the increasing needs of our children in a growing population. It is hoped that we will also have an additional speaker to discuss children’s future educational needs.