This Monday’s LPA hearing continues the DR/GR’s death by a thousand cuts.
Hearing on Monday, July 27
The county’s Local Planning Agency on Monday will consider yet another request to develop yet another tract of land in the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) area of Southeast Lee County.
This time, it’s a group of amendments to the Lee Plan and maps to allow commercial development on a parcel near the intersection of Corkscrew and Alico Roads… and it’s another example of how resources protection and sound land-use planning can be undone over time with a series of seemingly small actions.
The DR/GR designation is supposed to preserve a low-density land use pattern while allowing groundwater recharge of the aquifers, protection of existing agricultural activities and prudent lime rock mining to meet the road and building construction demands. A plan was debated and designed, maps and language were drafted and concurrence on the value and need to protection these thousands of acres of land was reached.
Then the undermining of all that work began.
First, it was allowing some residential development to encroach, with the promise that it would be low-density and environmentally friendly. That meant roads needed to built or improved, so people could get to these new homes.
Then a few more residential developments were approved, this time with commercial uses mixed… because that would keep people moving into these new homes from having to drive a long way on those new and improved roads just to get basic services
Then changes in and expansion of mining activities were pursued… because, well, the region was growing and lime rock was needed (even though there seemed to be plenty available already). But these companies promised to clean up the land that had been messed up in the past… and they were sorry that the neighbors (who weren’t supposed to be there in the original DR/GR planning) would be inconvenienced, but we have all this rock and all these roads, so it seems a waste not to mine it.
So now that we have all this mining and all these residences, doesn’t it seem like more commercial development to support those activities should be OK?
That brings us to the latest request… seemingly innocuous in isolation, but part of a larger degradation of the DR/GR when you look at the bigger picture. And even though the proposed plan and map amendments run counter to the original DR/GR intent, it’s just a little change, they’ll say… on top of another little change, on top of another….
And so it goes. Little by little, county leaders are paving over or digging up the DR/GR lands that were meant to buffer and preserve and protect.
That means that some day — likely sooner than you think — when all the homes have been built, the rock mined and those mines then converted to new residential developments (ready-made lakefront property, ready to sell!)… when the density has been increased (not reduced) and the groundwater stops flowing (no resources there), maybe someone will look around and ask: “So what was this DR/GR thing anyway?”
And no one will be able to answer.
Endnote: For specifics on the latest request to encroach on the DR/GR lands, you can review the application on line at https://www.leegov.com/dcd/Documents/Agendas/LPA/2020/JUL272020.pdf. If you want to speak on the matter or just sit and watch the next dismantling of the DR/GR, the hearing starts at 9 a.m. Monday in the Administration East Building, Room 118.