Gateway Sun

This just in: Gateway is growing.

In fact it’s been growing pretty quickly for years. And as the community has grown, the Gateway Services Community Development District has grown along with it in order to serve the needs of the residents and businesses.

The GSCDD operates out of a single facility located at 13240 Griffin Drive beside the Sherman Soccer Complex. However, with the aforementioned growth the staff itself has outgrown their building.

So a solution was devised to purchase the building owned by the Girl Scouts and move all administrative functions to the new facility, while devoting the existing building to the utility services side of the district’s operations.

The money is already in the budget. They’ve agreed to sale terms with the Girl Scouts. They have a conversion plan. The district is ready to go.

But as part of the sale process a problem was discovered. Way back, 20-or-30-some years ago, the building was actually never properly zoned for administrative use. So even though the GSCDD would be using the building for the exact same purpose as the Girl Scouts did, a zoning change would need to be made.

I’m skipping a few steps here in order to summarize, but long story short is that there are 2 main ways the zoning change can happen. The easy way or the hard way.

The easy way would be for all of the adjacent property owners and the Pinecrest HOA to simply agree to the zoning change. In that case, Lee County has told the Gateway District that they could expedite the process for our community and have the zoning change done in 2 to 3 weeks.

The hard way would be if any one of the property owners did NOT agree, and in that case you would have to hold hearings, and basically it becomes a bit of a legal battle. Make no mistake: the GSCDD would prevail in getting the zoning change, but it would take a year and cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe even a hundred thousand dollars.

So the GSCDD approached all the adjacent property owners and immediately stipulated that the former Girl Scouts building would be used for ONLY administrative purposes. Just like it always has been. No equipment storage or anything of that nature would take place at the new location, and this would all be put in to the zoning change application.

The adjacent property owners with “veto power” if you will, are Gateway Trinity Church and four homeowners. And as mentioned, the Pinecrest HOA board also must sign off on the “easy” zoning change as well.

(Note: The Gateway Fun Park is also adjacent to the Girl Scouts building, but that’s owned by the GSCDD itself so there would obviously be no issue getting approval there.)

Gateway Trinity Church, the Pinecrest HOA and two of the four homeowners have given written approval for the zoning change. However, the Gateway Sun was told yesterday that the other two homeowners are refusing to allow the “easy” zoning change — which would force the GSCDD to go through the year-long process.

But one person with direct knowledge of the situation told me that the “hard way” isn’t happening. The district needs space now. They don’t have time and aren’t willing to spend the money to go through the protracted zoning change process.

So it would appear the Gateway District acquiring the Girl Scout building is dead in the water unless those other two homeowners change their mind quickly.

The reality is that at some point somebody is going to come along who has the time and money to spend going the “hard way” route to obtaining zoning change.

And when that happens, the Pinecrest residents won’t have a say at all.

It could be a day care center, a massage parlor, vape store, a used car lot.

Practically anything.

Lee County loves economic activity and there’s a strong chance they’ll approve just about any kind of business to operate there as long as it’s legal.

So all things considered, a government administration building doesn’t seem like a bad deal. 

Does it?

break-line

If you’re wondering why two Pinecrest residents are fighting the GSCDD from purchasing the building, you’re not alone.

The rumor going around is that a former Supervisor has influenced those residents and convinced them to withhold their support of the easy zoning change because he’s upset that he’s no longer in the limelight and he wants to be an obstacle to the GSCDD. I’ve also heard that he’d be willing to change his position to support the zoning change in exchange for support for him rejoining the Board of Supervisors in 2018.

Horrible and selfish, if true. But again, it’s just rumors.

So the “best case” scenario now for those two hold-outs is that the building will sit empty, further deteriorating for years to come, and the Girl Scouts are deprived of some much-needed money for their organization. Way to go, guys.

But what if someone who owns a string of massage parlors comes along and wants to open a location there? These homeowners only have the ability to stop an easy zoning change. It’s not as if they have the authority to stop a legal business who wants to plow through the process.

And do you think the GSCDD would step in and try to stop that from happening after what those homeowners did to the district?

Apparently, there’s a Pinecrest HOA meeting next week. That will basically be the final opportunity for those homeowners to change their minds.

The GSCDD is NOT going to go through the year-long battle. I’ve been assured of that. They need space now.

So those hold-out homeowners had better wake up and realize that the Gateway Services District is about the best neighbor they could possibly hope for in that location. Or they will only have themselves to blame when Kiddy Care Daycare or Fantasy Massage opens for business next to their homes.

Good luck selling your property for maximum value when the time comes.

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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