The GPICA created a Development Task Force in 2021 to investigate outstanding development orders on the Island, so that we are aware of what development has been approved and where they are in the process of coming to fruition, with the hopes of informing our citizenry. The County’s database is not easily searched and we also found information lacking. For instance, we found that:
- 21% of all development orders issued were approved 23-39 YEARS ago!
- The status of 28% of these orders is unknown — we cannot determine the status of 154 development orders.
During a meeting with Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane in March 2022, we asked that that:
- Lee County work to develop a process that would allows for the sunsetting of old development orders — especially those that were approved under land-use rules that have since been changed. This would require new public hearings (NOT public information sessions, which in our experience carry little to no weight when it comes to development order approvals) to inform the public about pending development and allow their input to truly be taken into consideration.
- Lee County work to develop new guidelines for the “active pursuit of construction” that would take into consideration a reasonable timeframe for development, with continued input from residents when projects move from years to decades.
- Lee County add or increase a development order renewal fee to encourage orders to be vacated or projects completed within a reasonable period.
During the April 2022 meeting of the GPICA membership, Commissioner Ruane said but that the county had to follow current state law, which allow a development order to be renewed at six years, as long as there has been “active pursuit of construction” and that each natural disaster or other incident receiving an emergency declaration extended that period by two years.
Further, Commissioner Ruane said he agreed with the idea that old orders need to sunset, but that the state legislature has taken that local control away from county commissions.
During the meeting, there was much discussion on how the County defines “progress” being made on developments to keep them alive with some residents suggesting that specific dollar amount of progress be made or other remedies with Commissioner Ruane explaining that the commission’s “hands were tied” by state law.
- For the fuller discussion of the topic that took place during the meeting, please view the meeting recording.