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Citizens speak out against zoning change

November 1, 2017
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

It was a full house at the recent meeting of the Lehigh Acres zoning board as residents from one community spoke out against a proposed assisted living facility.

The Lehigh Acres Architectural, Planning and Zoning Review Board heard from the group of homeowners on Oct. 26 as they voiced their opposition to a zoning amendment brought forward by Banks Engineering. Stacy Hewitt explained that the firm's client intends to convert a parcel of land located in the Copperhead community, off of Beth Stacey Boulevard and 23rd Street Southwest.

"We are asking for the ability to have multi-family dwellings that would house either an assisted living or continuing care facility," she said.

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Stacy Hewitt, with Banks Engineering, discusses a proposed zoning amendment for a parcel of land in the Copperhead community, off of Beth Stacey Boulevard and 23rd Street Southwest.

A few of the residents from Copperhead stressed how worried they are about the impact the property conversion will have on property values, as well as the possible increase of traffic into the area.

"We are objecting to the changes for a nursing facility in our gated community," homeowner Luann Pierard said. "The one road leading into Copperhead was not meant to be for commercial use."

Copperhead was originally sold as an upscale, single-family residential golfing community. Many of the homeowners paid $400,000 or more for their homes, which they thought were protected under a covenants, conditions, and restriction rule that regulated the use and appearance of their community for up to 25 years.

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According to board member Tami Baker, the economic downfall caused many developments to go under and be put up for sale. The problem lies in the land's current zoning, which is mixed-use.

"Lee County has laws under these building codes as to what is considered commercial or residential," she said. "Currently, these homes reside in the middle of a mixed-use community and, unfortunately, it's now in the middle of that build-out process."

No vote or action was taken by the board regarding the zoning amendment.

Assistant District Manager Mike Cook, with the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District, reminded the group that the zoning board is a place for Lehigh citizens to voice their opinions on local proposed projects. He noted that the Lee County Commission will make the final decision.

"This is an administrative amendment that will ultimately be decided by the county, but the zoning review board is the first step for Lehigh to get involved and be heard," Cook said.

Another project on the agenda was a special exception and development order approval for a 149-foot wireless communication tower and 2,500-square-foot compound at 200 Homestead Road S.

Deborah Martohue, from Martohue Land Use Law P.A., explained that it will house the four major cell phone carriers, including T-Mobile. The new tower will allow for better data streaming and reduce current service gaps.

"The cell phone carriers have learned a lot from both Hurricane Irma and Maria. They want to be prepared for the future. This area in particular really needs improved signal support," she said.

The board voiced a motion to accept, which was unanimously approved.

The Lehigh zoning board examines plans and offers advice to developers, or their representatives, who must present their zoning change requests and other business in front of a public forum. The proposals eventually goes before the Lee County Commission for a final and determining vote.

The Lehigh Acres Architectural, Planning and Zoning Review Board will hold its next meeting on Dec. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the LA-MSID, at 601 East County Lane. The board does not meet in November.

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