Gateway Sun

Despite the fact they knew it was against the rules in Gateway, real estate developer WCI decided to petition Lee County and the South Florida Water Management District for a permit to increase the amount of land they can build on at the new Timberwood Preserve community by 12.5%.

Only problem? They never bothered to petition the Gateway Services Community Development District.

It’s called “impervious surface area” … and it’s defined as:

Mainly artificial structures—such as pavements (roads, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots) that are covered by impenetrable materials such as asphalt, concrete, brick, stone—and rooftops.

In Gateway, a developer can only build artificial structures on 40% of a community’s land area. WCI applied to Lee County and the SFWMD to build on 45% at Timberwood Preserve … and the request was granted by those entities.

The situation came to light at the October 15, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

And making matters worse, it’s not as if WCI wrote to the GSCDD and notified them. Instead, staff from Tetra Tech (who serve as Gateway’s engineers) were looking through permitting records with Lee County for other purposes and just happened to stumble upon it.

Gateway’s lawyer, Anthony Pires Jr., and Gateway’s District Engineer, Danny Nelson of Tetra Tech, were both blown away by WCI’s bold move to try to build on more than 40% of the land.

Nelson said that he was “surprised” because WCI “knows better.”

Pires shared his opinion that the GSCDD could simply refuse to install water meters at any new homes being built by WCI in Timberwood Preserve until the situation is resolved. The Supervisors voted in favor of that plan.

Since many people believe WCI is primarily responsible for the fiasco surrounding Gateway’s lakes, nobody at the GSCDD is feeling terribly eager to give WCI a pass for much these days. That said, everyone involved will likely say that the two situatons are completely unrelated.

So basically, at this time, the new homes being built in Timberwood Preserve will not have running water. That should make for an interesting sales pitch to prospective home buyers. Although a few homes are near completion, no one is actually living there yet.

In addition to holding back water meters, Pires also received permission from the Supervisors to file a permit challenge with Lee County and the SFWMD.

While nobody has stated yet what the GSCDD’s requirements are in this situation in order to consider it resolved, it seems likely that WCI will either have to agree to only build on 40% of the available land at Timberwood Preserve, or WCI will have to agree to financial terms with the district in order to maintain a 45% impervious surface area.

Could WCI sue the GSCDD for refusing to install water meters? They could try, but given that the suggestion came from Gateway’s highly regarded attorney it seems unlikely the district is doing anything wrong by denying water meters as a tool to enforce its long-established standards. The GSCDD clearly believes WCI are the ones overstepping their bounds here. Plus a lawsuit won’t help those homes get built and sold any faster, which is WCI’s main objective.

The bottom line is that nobody at the Gateway CDD believes this was an accident. It seems WCI knew they couldn’t build on 45% of the area in Gateway, but they just didn’t care.

Maybe they were hoping nobody would notice until it was too late.

Just like what happened with the lakes.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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