What’s at Stake:
New mines within the DR/GR water and habitat protection area;
Reduced accountability for future mine proposals in Lee County and especially in the DR/GR of Southeast Lee County
What is the Issue?
The DR/GR (Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource area was set aside in East Lee County to prevent overbuilding and protect vital freshwater sources and wildlife habitat. Despite these protections, the County has allowed increasing development and mining within its borders.
Act now to protect your future clean water and quality of life.
In December 2018, the issue was presented with little to no public information during the holiday season. It was forwarded through the approval process, and on April 17, 2019 was presented to the Board of County Commissioners. Over 300 residents attended the meeting and 80 spoke before the Commission, overwhelmingly in opposition to the changes. The BOCC voted 3-1 in favor of the changes. The final vote will be held on June 19, 2019.
What’s so Important about Lee Plan Map 14?
Map 14 isn’t flashy, but it is important. It’s a map with the title “Generalized Map of Existing and Approved Limerock Mining Areas”.
Yet this one map for the past 6 years has identified the locations where limerock mining in the Eastern Lee County Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource area (DR/GR) is allowed. This map was created by balancing the need for mining and compatibility with natural resource protection and residential neighborhoods. Now, Lee County staff proposes deletion of this map, along with regulations that govern and direct new mining operations that protect quality of life.
Map 14 does not exist in a vacuum. It is an integral component of a series of maps and policies contained in the Lee Plan that govern the DR/GR. The intent of the DR/GR was to protect water resources and limit the overall development density in the County as the DR/GR provides approximately 70% of Lee County’s potable water supply and habitat for many threatened and endangered species including the Florida panther.
The permitted uses and uses allowed with a rezoned area, ranged from agriculture to low density residential to limerock mining. No surprise, residents both within and outside the DR/GR began to express concern about the compatibility of limerock mining in the water resource area and adjacent to residential development. In 2007, amid a startling number of applications to allow for future mining, Lee County proactively began an assessment of the various uses in the DR/GR.
This happened through a public engagement process that utilized experts in planning, ecology, transportation, mining and more. The expert consultants assisted a citizens’ stakeholder committee as the committee and the community created a plan to direct these disparate land uses to the most appropriate locations. While nobody got 100% of what they wanted – after all, no one does in a compromise – the result was a good plan that the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and others, including the ECCL, supported.
A highlight of the DR/GR plan was to identify areas that were most compatible for future limerock mining. These areas focused on the Alico Road corridor where mining has historically occurred and these areas are contained in Map 14. This overlay was adopted by the County in 2010, challenged by mining interests, and upheld by an Administrative Law Judge in 2012.
Fast forward 6 years. Land has been removed from the DR/GR and allowed to intensify. Landowners have created specific sub-overlays for their property to allow for intensification. Lee County implemented another sub-overlay along Corkscrew Road, which allows for increased residential density in exchange for significant, quantifiable and measurable ecological benefits above and beyond what current permitting standards already require. A good concept, but the past several projects to be approved under this overlay have fallen short of meeting this standard, and have even succeeded in expanding the overlay.
In addition, we’re now seeing commercial developments proposed along Corkscrew Road in the DR/GR – a use that was never intended.
What has been the remaining success of the DR/GR plan?
To date, it has been Map 14. This provides Lee County with the ability to direct limerock mining to appropriate, already designated locations, and provides assurances to the community that a mine will not be proposed in their back yard. Map 14 and the other components of the 2010 DR/GR plan were years in the making through a very public, transparent process.
Yet now Lee County is proposing to delete this map and its corresponding policies.
The ECCL backs a plan by The Conservancy of Southwest Florida to ask Lee County to maintain the balance between lime rock extraction and other land uses including residential, commercial and conservation. We will also strongly express to Lee County that Map 14 and its supporting policies need to remain as part of the Lee Plan.
What do I say?
We urge you to voice your concerns.
Tell decision makers of your concern that the present Lee Plan requirements that are proposed to be deleted should remain. They were instituted for good reason during a long and intense planning effort by many citizens, experts, and scientists. They were included in the Lee Plan to ensure that only the amount of mining that is actually needed is authorized in an orderly fashion and allowed within already specified areas around Alico Road, keeping in mind that mining adversely affects our water supply, wildlife, traffic, noise, dust, and overall quality of life.