How it Works
The Village of Estero has unique processes and guidelines for builders and developers. This brief overview is provided so residents can understand how the process works and when public input is most impactful. It is NOT intended to make business or legal decisions, nor does it claim to be comprehensive or authoritative.
It Begins with Land
All the vacant (and non-vacant) land in the Village of Estero has zoning assigned to it. The property can only be used for the purposes it is zoned (residential, commercial, agricultural, or specified mixed uses). Current zoning maps can be found at: https://leegis.leegov.com/zoning
If a landowner wants to build something outside the current zoning limits, they have to go to the Village or County and ask for a zoning change or variance. If they want to build within the current zoning limits, they have a couple of documents to guide how and what they build.
Governing Documents: The plan
The Comprehensive Plan is the overall vision of how Estero intends to balance residential, commercial, public, and reserve lands. Suppose a developer wants to build something that is not in line with that plan. In that case, they have to approach the Village Council through the Planning, Zoning, and Design Review Board, with documentation and a public presentation to justify the exemption. These presentations are announced in advance, are open to the public, and are recorded and available on-demand for those who cannot attend in person. The Village sends out an email before and after each meeting describing what requests are on the agenda and what decisions were made.
Governing Documents: The Code
The Land Development Code is a technical document that details the rules builders and developers must follow to match the Comprehensive Plan’s vision. This code is specific to the Village and overrides the County’s codes.
All developments must present their architectural plans for buildings, site plans, permanent signage, and more for review to make sure it meets the standards of the code.
These presentations are also announced by email before and after every meeting of the Planning, Zoning, Design, and Review Board which either makes decisions within their authority or forwards recommendations to the Village Council.
Weighing In on Decisions
Estero’s staff developed the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code, led by the very experienced Community Development Director, Mary Gibbs, who previously worked for Lee County. Development of these plans included public input sessions and multiple reviews before being adopted.
In addition, all requests for permission to do major work (development orders) are reviewed by staff, who review the requests against the code and plan and report to both the Planning, Zoning, and Design Review Board and the Village Council as to whether the plans are compliant. In procedural issues, staff can decide on small renovations, technical deviations, and events like farmer’s markets.
The Planning, Zoning, and Design Review Board, which is made up of nine members appointed by the Village Council, decide on requests that have to do with development orders, special exceptions, variances to existing zoning, monument signage, exterior alterations, exterior painting, and such matters. This Board is not compensated and meets at least monthly as needed.
The Village Council decides Comprehensive Plan Amendments, rezoning requests, planned developments.
The public is invited to comment at all public meetings, at as many meetings as is required before a final vote is made. These meetings are posted on the Village’s calendar well in advance and offer public eComment on the agendas, which are available with detailed attachments the week prior to the meeting.
It Wasn’t Always Like This
In 2021, the Planning, Zoning, and Design Review Board merged from two separate boards: zoning and design.
Before the Village of Estero was incorporated in 2015, the boards existed as independent, volunteer-operated arms of the ECCL. The Estero Design Review Committee and Estero Community Planning Panel each served as a way for the public to easily be informed about and be heard by developers as they planned their projects.
These two panels existed solely because The ECCL developed the Estero Community Plan, a grassroots development plan guiding building design, landscaping, and buffers adopted by the Board of County Commissioners starting in 2002, long before Estero became a municipality.
Read more about the ECCL’s significant contribution to the appearance standards in Estero in “Forging a Better Path: the role of the ECCL in helping to make the Greater Estero Area the best place to visit, live, work and play now and in the future,” by our own Allan J. Bowditch.
So How Do You Get Involved?
The ECCL was founded on the idea that residents should be actively involved in the direction and implementation of the growth of Estero. Growth is inevitable, but the types and styles of growth are up to us.
First, subscribe to the ECCL email list for updates on all kinds of issues essential to residents, including development.
Second, subscribe to the Village of Estero’s email list for previews and summaries of each public meeting. These articles link to the actual applications developers submit, so you can view them, submit comments, or attend the meetings to comment.
Estero is the beautiful, consistent municipality it is today, is because residents took action BEFORE typical highway construction invaded the area. The time to become involved in a development process is in the planning stages, not after the bulldozers arrive. By then, the decisions have been made. Fortunately for us, we have access to those planning stages and can participate in the discussion.
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