A handful of Shawnee Road residents are seeking legal intervention to prevent or modify a 1,600-home community being planned by Lennar Homes just beyond their backyards.
When Dan and Shari Thompson built their home off Shawnee Road more than 30 years ago in eastern Lee County, they did so with the expectation of having no more than 123 new neighbors on the vacant 1,233 acres to their west.
That’s because the Lee County Commission created the Density Reduction/Groundwater Recharge area, or DR/GR, in the 1980s. Spread across more than 80,000 acres in eastern Lee County between State Road 82 and Corkscrew Road, records show it was designed to protect the county’s future drinking water supply and prevent urban sprawl.
Over the past eight years, current Lee County commissioners have been shrinking the DR/GR, modifying some of it into a new program called Environmental Overlay, county records show. Density is no longer limited to one home per 10 acres.
Instead of getting 123 new neighbors, the Thompsons learned 1,600 new homes could be built by developer Lennar Homes, the top homebuilder in Southwest Florida in terms of volume, at what will be called Daniels Creek. The plans also include a 350,000-square-foot shopping center to be built at the southeast corner of State Road 82 and Daniels Parkway.
Lennar Homes and current landowners Jared Holes Trust declined to comment.
The Thompsons and three other neighbors, who also live off Shawnee Road, hired attorney Ralf Brookes. They are seeking a judge to reverse the Lee County Commission’s unanimous ruling on rezoning the land because it goes against the Lee County Land Development Code, the 75-page legal document, called a writ of certiorari, states.
Standing in her backyard, Shari Thompson showed photographs she took in recent years of panthers, bobcats, various birds and other wildlife. She said she’s concerned about wildlife habitat vanishing.
Dan Thompson has other concerns. All of their drinking and bathing water comes from wells, and he wondered how 1,600 new homes will impact the quality and quantity of their well water.
In addition, the Thompsons are concerned the new community would dam sheet flow from exiting their own property. Instead of flowing to the west and southwest, Dan Thompson said, the excess rain and floodwaters would stagnate and perhaps create even more flooding.
“The best outcome to this would be they set up a trust fund or however they want to set it up, to cover anything that happens to our wells,” Dan Thompson said, “for them to give us some sort of a reasonable expectation that we’re not going to be flooded, because we’re losing our sheet flow to the west.
“If they want to come in and pave the road and dig ditches, I’m sure everyone would be happy with that, but I’m sure that’s not in their purview.”
Shawnee Road is full of potholes made mostly of dirt. It’s a privately owned, 2-mile road, with about 35 homes built alongside it and no drainage ditches or sidewalks.
The adjacent Daniels Creek planned subdivision will be less than 3 miles from the northeast edge of the Southwest Florida International Airport runway.
Kayla Guenther lives across the street from the Thompsons. She said she was surprised the commissioners voted to approve the site because of the environmental implications and because lead shell casings from historic gun training on the site may have contaminated the ground underneath, she said.
“The best-case scenario is they will have to modify their plans so there’s a minimal impact on our lives,” Guenther said. “They won’t get to irrigate their neighborhood with water that we rely on to irrigate our neighborhood and feed our livestock.”