In December 2020, following a meeting with newly elected Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane and his promise to work with Islanders on our most important issues, the GPICA Board created a survey to gather residents’ input. The survey asked residents about the top issues that most concerned them and why.
The leading issue residents identified was overdevelopment. When asked why, they said things like:
- “This is a rural area and too much development affects quality of life and safety during hurricanes.”
- “The wildlife is being eradicated on the island due to habitat loss.”
- “To maintain rural/agricultural/fishing character of the Island.”
- “Keep Pine Island like old Florida. It would be easy to over-develop this 17 mile island. We need to keep a balance of nature’s needs and people’s needs.”
- “Protection of the Pine Island Plan is critical.”
Island residents are concerned that development has led to traffic-tie-ups, accidents, difficulties in getting help in emergencies, and pollution due to septic run-off; to strains on existing infrastructure, which is not properly maintained or upgraded; and to loss of critical habitats that provide a home for the wildlife that drew so many to the Island.
In 1994, the GPICA played an instrumental role in helping to develop the Pine Island Plan, a smart growth plan adopted by Lee County in 1994. (Review a history of the Pine Island Plan here.) The Plan was designed to:
- Manage future growth on and around Greater Pine Island;
- Maintain the Island’s unique natural resources, character and its viable and productive agricultural community; and
- Ensure that Island residents and visitors would have a reasonable opportunity to evacuate when a hurricane strike is imminent.
Today, the GPICA works to protect the plan by staying apprised of development plans and zoning amendment requests.
In unincorporated communities like Pine Island, developers are also required to hold public meetings to inform residents about their plans. On Pine Island, the GPICA is the designated forum for these public information meetings required before developers of multifamily residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and infrastructure projects and subdivisions may obtain Development Orders that allow them to begin site work or obtain building permits.
During these hearings, GPICA members and community residents have an opportunity to ask questions of the developers and vote on whether they support plans. Following these hearings, the GPICA Board summarizes community response to the proposed changes and communicates the results — including questions and concerns — to the Lee County Department of Community Development and the Lee County Commission.
It’s important to note that many developments have already been approved on Pine Island but may take decades to see fruition. One example is Orchid Cove, a community of 94 townhomes planned for Pine Island Center — see details here.