The ECCL serves the residents of Estero as a voluntary, “grass roots” community organization that listens to the concerns of all Estero residents and provides a forum for each residential community to obtain community-wide support for its concerns. Then the ECCL presents the consensus of its members’ opinions to the appropriate county and state decision makers for action.
Around the middle of 2001, the all volunteer Estero Concerned Citizens Organization (ECCO) began to study the zoning plans for Coconut Point, the largest commercial project ever proposed for Estero: 500 acres, 1,800,000 square foot of retail, 300,000 square foot of office and 600 hotel rooms. In the process ECCO recruited representatives of all the surrounding residential communities to identify the concerns of these communities.
As we progressed the group developed a position paper, discussed it with County zoning and transportation staff and sat down to negotiate our concerns with Coconut Point’s developers. The developers agreed to address all of our concerns and entered into a written agreement with the communities to follow through with those commitments, most of which were also made conditions of the zoning.
After Coconut Point’s zoning was approved in September 2002 the members of this group saw the need to include all of Estero’s residential communities and all community-wide organizations in the group in order to deal with all the large number of development projects proposed throughout the community. The Estero Council of Community Leaders emerged from this effort.
Highlights of our accomplishments since Estero’s incorporation include:
- Transportation victories: Our actions led to accelerated funding of the widening of Corkscrew Road east of I-75 and prevented funding of CR 951 between Corkscrew Road and Alico Road through the Grandezza community.
- Collecting survey opinions: Our assistance to the Estero Community Improvement Foundation resulted in the collection of 1,000 responses to its Estero Needs Assessment Survey. The results of that survey were shared with the Village Council.
- Issuing warnings about Tropical Storm Erika: At the Village’s request, we helped inform residents about storm preparedness and emergency contact information in the event of a hurricane.
- Monitoring planning and zoning matters: ECCL communications have greatly increased citizen participation in development issues before the Village’s Planning and Zoning Board and Design Review Board.
- Sponsoring meetings as a clearinghouse for ideas: The ECCL’s 34 community representatives and the public participate in monthly meetings, unencumbered by Sunshine Law restrictions that can hobble Florida government bodies.
- Sharing information about healthcare developments: We provide regular updates about Lee Memorial’s Coconut Point Healthy Life Center, now open, and the 172,000- square-foot Healthcare Village, to open in 2018.
- Protecting our environment: We keep residents apprised of projects impacting our water quality and quantity, as well as area wildlife. This includes residential development and mining proposals in the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource area along east Corkscrew Road, inside and outside the Village boundaries.
- Reporting on housing trends: Our periodic Economic Development Reports (EDRs) provide updates on Estero’s new commercial and residential development, home sales, and economic development trends.
- Teaming up with other community groups: Using our communication capabilities, we collaborate with community organizations, like the Koreshan State Historic Site, the Estero Historic Preservation Citizens’ Committee and the Estero Art League, to strengthen their effectiveness.
- Offering the benefit of our experience: ECCL members have years of experience in governmental and civic matters that communities and citizens can access to guide Estero’s future.
ECCL founders Don Eslick and Neal Noethlich were interviewed on camera in June 2014. They detailed the founding of the grassroots community group, the Estero Council of Community Leaders; the community planning that ensued; and the accomplishments of these dedicated residents.