We all know the definition of insanity, but do we know the definition of political insanity? Simply put, it’s the expectation that if we keep voting for those already in office, things will be different following their reelection. And that is the situation in which we find ourselves here in Lee County.
We keep electing the same people, expecting a different outcome. Our Board of County Commissioners is the highest governing body in the county. Its five members — all men — hold sway over so much of our daily lives: the roads we drive on, the taxes we pay and how they are spent, the development of some lands, the preservation of others. In theory, these elected officials are supposed to report to taxpayers and be responsive to our concerns and needs. Yet three of these men — Commissioners Hamman, Pendergrass and Manning — continue to ignore the pleading of residents who are being severely impacted by the land use decisions the three are making. Just look at recent happenings:
- In 2019, in a 3 – 1 vote (with Commissioner Frank Mann as usual the lone dissenter), the Board decided to expand the acceptable locations where mining can take place in the county (anywhere!) by eliminating boundary lines drawn and agreed upon years ago.
- Then, in a rare move, the county withdrew plans for a waste transfer station it had planned to build off Alico Road. A forceful push by residents close to the proposed site (https://innerloopworkinggroup.com) was successful in arguing against the station, but it is expected that the county will return with a new proposal to site the facility nearby and we can only hope that the Commissioners take into consideration the continuing concerns of the residents.
- Following this, the Commissioners held hearings to allow Troyer Brothers to mine lime rock on 1700 acres of previously agricultural land to a depth of 110 feet (11 stories) for 35 years — until 2054.
- Shortly thereafter, they announced a plan to shoehorn a gated community onto 8.4 acres near the Hyatt Regency at Coconut Point, a narrow strip of land in unincorporated Lee County between Estero and Bonita Springs, where the developer would pay the county 45% of the required impact fees, rather than the 100% levied by the other two jurisdictions. Lee County taxpayers will be footing most of the bill for the infrastructure required by this development for years to come. It’s just another example of how our discounted impact fees are attracting the very developers who are ruining our quality of life.
We must decide the kind of community in which we want to live and raise our families. One that is paved over, choking on car and truck fumes, and overcrowded? Or the paradise we all treasure? We are not against development; rather, we oppose sprawl, want quality public transportation, and demand respect for environmentally-sensitive lands. And above all, we resent the influence of special interests on the three County Commissioners — Hamman, Pendergrass and Manning — who repeatedly vote against the wishes of those who elected them. Developer campaign donations are drowning out the cries of taxpaying, voting citizens and discouraging civic engagement.
The Commissioners believe they can wear us down and wait us out. They are wrong. Right now, we can attend hearings, write emails and call our County Commissioners (contact info at http://leegov.com/bocc ). And right now, we ask that you to send this email on to others, encouraging them to take action and join our movement by getting on our email list.
In the end, if we want our voices heard, if we want to be the ones to determine our quality of life, we must work together to elect new members to the Board of County Commissioners. We will fight these battles in the County Chambers every week, but we will only win the war by changing the Commissioners who treat us with such disdain. Our future is in our hands.