Fort Myers City Council denied a land-use change Monday for a 42-acre property in the Treeline corridor, consisting of 10 parcels on the northeast corner of Treeline Avenue and Daniels Parkway.
Council member Darla Bonk motioned to deny the request for a traditional community land use on the site, sending the item back to the planning board with the recommendation that the site will be an industrial light land use with a caveat for no residential uses on the property. The motion passed with a 4-3 vote.
The item drew dozens of Treeline corridor residents, along with Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, all speaking in opposition of the applicant’s request.
The applicant, Waltco Commercial Holding LLC, sought a land use its representatives said would be a reasonable use for the property. Under the site’s current land use, intensive industrial and commercial uses with no residential uses are allowed. Changing the land use to the traditional community category would have allowed for a mix of commercial and residential multifamily uses.
The property is under county land use since it was annexed into the city and is in need of a city zoning category to move forward with development.
“We would respectfully request that if you did annex into the city, you give us a city future land use category so that we don’t have to try to develop in the city under the county’s regulations because that can be very complicated,” RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture Vice President Alexis Crespo said.
The issue of city and county government alignment was evident, considering the Lee Board of County Commissioners sent a letter to Council requesting the denial of a land-use amendment on the property until it has sufficient municipal facilities. The letter also cited the importance of the tradeport land use in the county, stating it is critical in providing employment opportunities.
Pendergrass asked Council to support Bonk and remand the item back to the planning board for a use similar to the county’s tradeport, which is the same as the city’s industrial land use.
Attorney Sawyer Smith presented the benefits of commercial industrial districts near large-scale residential developments, including economic synergy, local services and amenities.
“Colonial [Boulevard] and Daniels along Treeline is 5 miles, and there are absolutely no commercial nodes, no light industrial, no restaurants, no shops, doctors, dentists, nail salons, no doggy daycare, there’s nothing,” he said.
When the permission to advertise was approved last month, many residents spoke in opposition of moving the item forward for reasons pertaining to traffic and water services.
Civil engineer James Ink with Ink Engineering said by the time the development is constructed, there will be more water online for residents based on current and future design and construction of water wells in the city.
Despite attempting to make a case of how the city will eventually have adequate infrastructure, Bonk and residents provided opposing arguments and experiences.
“We can sit here and talk about building more wells, and we have a plan in place,” Bonk said. “The plan is in place because a consent order required us to have a plan in place. There is no proactive plan in place. If that was the case, I would concede, and we wouldn’t be here tonight having this conversation.”
Pelican Preserve resident Carol Brokke said her community has experienced water pressure issues since 2009, and consistently works with the city to solve water issues and keep track of pressure readings.
Pressure readings showed a drop in water pressure and city water despite four new wells and a pump station. “The Treeline pump station storage tank does not raise the water pressure. It only prevents the water pressure from dropping during peak usage,” she said. “The demand for water in the city will continue to exceed the new water output from improved water structure.”
Another Pelican Preserve resident, Gary Eidson, had a simple message for Council.
“Hurry up and wait,” he said. “I’d like you to hurry up and build much-needed infrastructure first, and then provide adequate water and roads, [and] wait on development until you can ease the stress.”
Residents also touched on the traffic congestion more rooftops would bring, with Eidson describing increasing density on Treeline and Daniels as intensifying an already intolerable situation.
Upon Council’s denial of the applicant’s request, the property owner requested a land use dispute resolution process, said attorney Neale Montgomery, who represents Waltco Commercial Holding.