Committee Formed and Officers Elected to Support Pine Island Plan

Over 160 Pine Island residents attended the first organizational meeting to elect officers to support the Pine Island Plan. The meeting was held on Monday, May 18, 2015 at 7:00 PM at the Fisher of Men Lutheran Church.
Phil Buchanan, moderator of the meeting started by thanking all who attended and gave a brief history of the problems they are faced with and what they hope to accomplish by forming this committee. He said “We have to work with all of the County Commissioners: John Manning, Cecil Pendergrass, Brian Hamman, Frank Mann and Larry Kiker. “

Changes were made to the Pine Island land plan that reduced development allowances from one home per acre to one home per 10 acres. That resulted in eight lawsuits being filed and 54 threats of suits. This suit, by Cammilot Partners, brings the suits down to seven. It has been posited by the complainants that all land use laws are unconstitutional and the land owners can do anything legal with their property they want without any restrictions.

Buchanan said, “We are dealing with the “Bert Harris Private Property Protection Act of 1995” It is not retroactive and thus does not apply to the 810/910 rules enacted in 1988. The Act provides protection to landowners over and above the provisions of the United States Constitution and is unique to Florida. See more information at Florida Bert Harris The Act does a reasonable job of legislating fairness to landowners. It provides payment for damages if a government agency “inordinately burdens” an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property. The Act does not prevent good land planning or force communities such as Pine Island to accept more development than the island can absorb. There is no reason for local governments to panic when presented with the Bert Harris Claims.
On March 17th the commissioner approved the hiring of an attorney to rewrite the Pine Island Plan and by at least a 3 to 2 vote it was approved. Buchanan said, “We have John Manning and Frank Mann on our side, Cecil Pedergrass is a swing vote that is swinging in the wrong direction; we hope to get him to swing in our direction. Brian Hamman and Larry Kilker were put into office by US Sugar, King Ranch and big development so they are a loss.”

Buchanan continued, “I’m not alleging that the County attorney or the County Commissioners did anything illegal. It’s not illegal for the US Sugar People and King Ranch to get rid of Ray Judah and put in their own people Brian Hamman and Larry Kiler. US Sugar and King Ranch paid almost ¾ of a million dollars to get them into office. Again I’m not saying they did anything illegal after all a lot of things make it into law in Florida that shouldn’t. The County says we are at war out here, well I don’t see it that way. The way I see it is we are getting prepared and organized and that is why we have called this special meeting to elect officers. So what do you say, we get started with our agenda.”

Buchanan then introduced the nominating committee: Bill Spikowski, Honorary Chairman, was unable to attend the meeting • Phil Buchanan, Co-Chairman along with Roger Wood • Andrea Henderson, Secretary • Renee Pollack, Registrar, was unable to attend the meeting do to a last minute emergency • Time Heitz, Webmaster • Renee Pollack, Facebook Administrator • Carol Crane, Projects Boss • Claudia Brindle, Director of Research •Treasurer which was a nomination from the floor.

Buchanan asked if there were any other nominations from the floor which there were none. He further asked for a show of hands to approve the officers, officers were approved by a majority vote.

Buchanan asked for people to volunteer to become liaisons for the planning committee. Suggestions were for committees to be setup and start doing research or certain tasks, as well as appoint ambassadors to reach out to and draw in Pine Island organizations. He said, “A ton of research is needed such as evacuation capabilities, valuation of restricted development rights, PDR/TDR (property development rights/transfer development rights) possibilities, financial and environmental costs of another bridge, damages to Matlacha if three or four lanes are necessary on Pine Island Road, damages to protected species, coastal high hazard zone restrictions, FEMA restrictions, campaign and PAC contributions to county decision makers, land plan change procedures, Lee County Comprehensive Future Land Plan provisions limiting the process, state review of land plan changes, state statutes protecting environments, “data and analysis” requirements to support land plan changes—this list will undoubtedly grow very quickly as people contribute their ideas and other meeting are planned.”

Carol Crane already working on the new bridge costs volunteered as projects chairman. Location discussed for proposed bridge is in the area of Pirate Landing in St. James City. One of the major issues talked about was the roads and only having one way off the island. Hurricane evacuation and the limited road capacity serving Pine Island Road as it affected both daily travel and hurricane evacuation. Pine Island is accessed by a 2-lane arterial road over several two-lane bridges and a two-lane drawbridge. Buchanan said, “Research says that it would take over 72 hours to evacuate Lee County residents if the area was threatened with a major hurricane. Where does that leave Pine Island residents with only one way off the island?”

The committees in support of the Pine Island Plan would be responsible for preparing papers on their assigned topic for presentation to the entire Planning Committee; this would need to happen before the County Attorney’s Office presents their proposal which may occur this fall. “There is a lot that needs to happen in a very short time. If we all work together it will make the job easier and will go by much faster. Fall will be here before you know it and we have lost a lot of our winter residents to help”, said Buchanan.