Gateway Sun

It appears as though the efforts of two Pinecrest homeowners to outsmart the rest of Gateway have backfired spectacularly.

In case you weren’t following the saga: the Gateway Services District attempted to purchase the abandoned building beside the Trinity Church to turn it in to the GSCDD’s administrative office and new headquarters. To everyone’s surprise, the building (which is owned by the Girl Scouts of Southwest Florida) was part of a zoning error a few decades ago. Before Lee County will allow the building to be used for administrative purposes it would have to be properly zoned. However, when a couple of Pinecrest homeowners — and a few of their friends who are former Gateway politicians and candidates — found out they could prevent a quick and easy zoning change and stop the district from spending tax payer money on a new building, the homeowners did just that. That left the GSCDD with the choice between finding a new building, or going through an expensive year-long process to force the zoning change. The district opted to move on from the Girl Scouts building and come up with a new plan.

And in case you missed it, the Pinecrest owners didn’t necessarily object to the Girl Scouts building being used as a government office. They specifically wanted to prevent the GSCDD from spending already-budgeted money on purchasing a new headquarters.

In the end, the homeowners’ plan worked and the Board of Supervisors backed off from the purchase. It was back to square one for the district.

But the upside of having a fresh start was that it opened up all kinds of other interesting possibilities.

Among the new ideas: building a brand new facility at the district-owned land at Gateway Commons.

At the December 7 district meeting, Supervisor Ed Tinkle asked Public Works Manager Michael Tisch about the status of the new HQ search.

“Where do we stand on the building? Are we going to create a committee to figure out where we’re going next with this?” asked Tinkle.

“I found out some very interesting information,” replied Tisch, adding, “That property up at the pool. I talked to Lee County – the zoning and planning department. And based on the zoning that’s there, we could put a building there without having to go to any public hearings or anything. We could utilize that for the purposes of what you’re wanting to do.”

The feedback from the board about a Gateway Commons facility was extremely positive, and the plan going forward is for the Supervisors to discuss the concept in February at a special meeting called a “board advance”. (Basically it’s a previously unscheduled all-day meeting for the Supervisors to have a free discussion on topics of importance to Gateway. The date and location of the board advance will be advertised sometime next year and the public is welcome to attend.)

While the Board of Supervisors won’t be able to vote on building a new headquarters facility at the board advance, they can get on the same page and put it on the agenda of the next closest district meeting – and make it official at that point.

For now, though, at least we know the GSCDD board and staff have a plan.

And much to the chagrin of the two Pinecrest homeowners and their friends, all signs point toward the district getting a new building after-all.

break-line

Building a new HQ at Gateway Commons is a good plan.

Actually it’s a great plan.

It’s the stuff of pure genius, really.

The people of Gateway already own the land. It’s located at the center of town. The land isn’t being used. And, it allows the GSCDD staff to design a building that will signal to current and prospective residents that Gateway is looking toward the future.

And as for the money involved? It’s already been budgeted for.

It’s things like this that send a positive message to home buyers looking for a new place to live, which in a roundabout way also results in increased home values.

The only unfortunate part of all this is that buying the Girl Scouts building would have helped out that worthy organization. Now the Girl Scouts will be on their own to force a zoning change before they can their building to someone else.

It’s also a missed opportunity, because the Girl Scouts building is next to the Fun Park — which would have allowed for improved oversight of that amenity.

But to be totally honest, this new path forward of building at Gateway Commons is a much better idea than the Girl Scouts location.

Placing the GSCDD HQ right along Gateway Boulevard is exactly the right move.

We should know what the Supervisors decide to do in February, with an official vote taking place most likely in February or March.

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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