January 2023 Meeting Minutes

Greater Pine Island Civic Association — Meeting Minutes, Jan. 10, 2023, Pine Island United Methodist Church

Board Members Present: Helen Fox, President; Nadine Slimak, Vice President; Mike Sweeney, Treasurer; Shari Perkins; Deb Swisher-Hicks. (Excused: Cindy Bear, Scott Wilkinson, Connie D’Alessio)

66 attendees signed in. The meeting was also livestreamed via Facebook (310 people viewed the meeting live or watched the recording afterward).

You can view the full meeting recording at the bottom of this page.

President Helen Fox opened the meeting shortly after 6:30 p.m. and provided opening remarks.

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Mike Sweeney provided a financial report for December 2022:

  • Money Market: $16,763.11
  • Checking: $7,117.98
  • CD Investment: $76,370.54
  • Income, 12-6-22 through 1-5-22: $272.49 in memberships (cash $80; online $192.49)
  • Expenses: $400 (audio/visual support for the December meeting at the Pine Island Methodist Church)

Annual GPICA Board Elections

Board Member Shari Perkins provided an overview of board nominations/elections.
Board member requirements:

  • Be a member in good standing for at least 6 months previously and agree to take an active role in board duties.
  • Current Board Members Fox and Sweeney are up for election in February and have agreed to run again.
  • The GPICA nominating committee nominated member (and former Board Member) Tim Heitz, and he agreed to run again to fill a vacant seat.
  • Member Jette Smith was nominated from the floor.

Additional nominations may be made via email to Info@GPICA.org.

Elections will take place during February’s meeting. Only members in good standing and current in their dues payments may vote. (To check your membership status, please email Info@GPICA.org)

Greater Pine Island Alliance Activities

Mike Sweeney provided an update on the Greater Pine Island Alliance (GPIA), which was created after Hurricane Ian to focus on long-term and short-term recovery needs and includes members from the Island’s nonprofit and civic organizations, including the GPICA. Mike is the GPICA representative to the GPIA. Updates included:

  • Alliance members (particularly the Matlacha Hookers) have been doing weekly construction materials handouts at the main Fire Station 1; the Hookers also organized a successful roadway cleanup.
  • Alliance members are also actively working on developing a location — 4.7 acres between the 7-11 and Water District offices — where FEMA/State trailers can be installed for residents who lost homes.
  • The GPIA meets weekly as needed at the Beacon of Hope (Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.)

Land Use Issues

Helen also shared information about a Jan. 12 public hearing before the Lee County Hearing Examiner.
Property and Location: 3640 SW Pine Island Road, 1.4+ acre parcel on the south side of Pine Island Road, about a half-mile west of the intersection of SW Pine Island Road and Veteran’s Parkway

  • Zoning Change Request: The request is to change the property zoning from agricultural (AG2) to commercial planned development (CPD).
  • Why: The property owner is seeking to allow for a maximum of 2,000 square feet of commercial area for an office, small retail and similar uses. The primary purpose is to use the building for a vehicle dealership to sell used cars and rent vehicles to tourists.
  • Additional: The request is also accompanied by a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the land use category from rural to commercial in order to permit the planned use.

Main Program

Helen then introduced members of Lee County government who were in attendance at the meeting in order to help address community concerns and issues. In attendance were:

  • Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane, who represents Pine Island on the Lee Board of County Commissioners, and is also overseeing long-term recovery efforts on behalf of Lee County.
  • Assistant County Managers Glen Salyer and Marc Mora and Deputy County Manager David Harner;
  • Solid Waste Director Doug Whitehead;
  • Community Development Director Dave Loveland and Building Official Shawn McNulty;
  • Department of Transportation Director Randy Cerchie and Deputy Director Rob Price;
  • Lee County Public Utilities Deputy Director Paul Flores.

FEMA’s Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer for Hurricane Ian and representatives from the Florida Division of Emergency Management were also in attendance during the meeting.

Hurricane Recovery

Kevin Ruane, who has been attending weekly GPIA meetings, then provided updates on recovery, including:

  • Insurance tort reform that the state Legislature passed;
  • That the State of Florida is providing funding support for debris collection, above funding provided federally via FEMA;
  • That the state approved a law allowing for rebates on property 2022 and 2023 taxes for homes that were uninhabitable — Signed into law December 16, 2022, section 197.3181, Florida Statutes (F.S.), provides for a prorated refund of ad valorem taxes for residential improvements rendered uninhabitable by Hurricanes Ian or Nicole. The Department of Revenue developed a guide to help homeowners understand the statute. For details, please visit: https://floridarevenue.com/property/Documents/ian_nicole_guide.pdf
    According to Kevin, the state will be providing a revenue replacement of the lost tax revenue;
    Kevin has been asked to testify about hurricane recovery during the state legislative session this month;
  • That the County has opened a temporary remote permitting office on Pine Island (located at the Pine Island Library) (the final scheduled day for the office is Jan. 18), as well as a site where residents can drop off debris (located near the tennis courts).


FEMA’s Coordinating Officer stated that FEMA has provided residents of Pine Island and Matlacha $22 million in assistance, including:

  • $18 million for repairs;
  • $3 million for rental assistance

Additionally, in Lee County, 2,000 people have received the maximum grants of $37,900 for damaged structures and $37,900 for damaged household contents. Many of them are residents of Pine Island/Matlacha.

FEMA is “doing things we’ve never done before,” the FEMA representative said, including partnering with the state on commercial and private debris removal and allowing temporary trailers to be placed in flood zones WITHOUT being elevated above flood level.

  • 26 million cubic yards of debris has been removed — which if piled in a line would stretch from Pine Island to Minneapolis and back.
  • So far, there are 2 FEMA trailers on Pine Island, with another 10 licensed for placement. They’re working to increase those numbers and have identified 3 sites on the Island that may be used as temporary trailer sites. (One site is being developed with pads/water/sewer hookups; a second is still in planning and third is still being evaluated.) Additionally, a trailer park just off island in the Cape is close to being opened with 100 pads.
  • FEMA also has a program to help with septic drain fields that have been destroyed. Visit the FEMA tent at Pine Island Center to learn more.
  • FEMA and other federal and state agency representatives have been training volunteers with the Beacon of Hope so they can help local residents advocate for themselves and receive assistance through state and federal sources.
  • FEMA will remain on the Island. If you have a claim for damage that was denied and have updates from insurance, etc. you may still be eligible for assistance. Visit the tent to discuss your personal case/situation with FEMA representatives.

Residents can also seek state housing help at https://ianrecovery.fl.gov/unite.

A representative from the Beacon of Hope spoke up from the audience to note that volunteer assistance for Islanders who need help seeking state and federal hurricane aid is available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Beacon, 5090 Doug Tayler Circle, St. James City (in the industrial park).

Debris Removal

Doug Whitehead then took questions about debris removal. Points to note include:
There are county inspectors on the Islands every week noting where pick-ups need to be made and that pick up will continue until all debris is removed.

He also reminded the audience that hurricane debris should be separated into piles:

  • Vegetative debris
  • Construction/demolition
  • Appliances and white goods
  • Electronics

Regular household waste should be put out for regular garbage pickup and household hazardous waste MUST be taken to the disposal site at 6441 Topaz Court, Fort Myers, FL 33966

Important to note: Debris contractors WILL NOT pick up debris in black bags. Any hurricane household material debris should either be loose/open in a pile at the curb or placed in clear plastic bags.

Regular household waste (i.e. food stuffs and the like that you might typically put in black bags) should be placed in your regular garbage can for disposal during regular household trash pickup, which is back on schedule.

You can follow what’s been happening with debris removal online here: https://lee-county-fl-debris-removal-thompsoncs.hub.arcgis.com

  • The number to call with questions about debris removal or to note an area that has not been picked up is 239-533-8000.

For debris removal from canals/waterways, the county will handle county waterways and the state will handle state waterways. The county has contracted with Casey Streeter (Pine Island Seafood) to help with debris cleanup in Pine Island area waters. Please visit IanDebrisCleanup.com to fill out a request for debris removal from the state.

Building Permits

Dave Loveland noted that of the 550,000 residences in Lee County, some 129,630 have received substantial damage that will require permits for repair (that’s on top of any regular, ongoing permitting requests that the department would be typically handling). The office is seeking additional staffing support.

  • The newly opened remote permit office at the Pine Island Library was receiving brisk business. The remote office will be open Wednesday, Jan. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the final day scheduled for the remote office to be open.)
  • He also shared that the department has a large backlog of permits to process and has adjusted its lobby hours to allow staff to work through the backlog. The office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, 1500 Monroe St., Fort Myers. Additionally, the Fort Myers office WILL BE CLOSED on Jan. 18 and staff will not be taking calls — again, so they can work through the backlog of permit requests.

After noting that the time was getting late and that questions remained, Helen stated that the GPICA will work to possibly schedule an additional January meeting, possibly on Jan. 24. (Please check our home page for updates.)

At about 8:30 p.m. Mike Sweeney made a motion to adjourn the meeting, it was seconded by Nadine Slimak and the meeting was adjourned.

— Minutes respectfully submitted by Nadine Slimak


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