Gateway Sun

While Gateway residents are divided on a number of issues, there’s one topic that the entire community seems to agree on: nobody wants the proposed four-story, 310 multi-family unit complex named Boardwalk at Gateway to be built at the northeast corner of Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive.

Last week it emerged that the developer had filed for an administrative amendment to change the zoning on that parcel to allow for Boardwalk to be built as planned.

An administrative amendment is a quick and easy way to allow for a zoning change, rather than having to go through the full re-zoning process which would involve public hearings and formal approval from the Board of County Commissioners.

Several months ago a high ranking Lee County official told the Gateway Sun there was no way Lee County staff would approve an administrative amendment of this nature for that parcel. Not because of the public outrage surrounding Boardwalk, but rather because this specific change request was simply too significant and had to involve our elected officials.

Residents of Gateway were urged to contact Lee County to protest the administrative amendment on social media last week. And just as the official predicted, Lee County staff rejected the developer’s request for an administrative amendment. The developer will now have to go through a full-blown hearing process if they want Boardwalk to proceed with 310 units.

Lee County has always said that with the current zoning status of that parcel the developer could build up to 183 multi-family units right away, with no further changes or approval needed.

Right now the parcel in question is zoned as “Town Center” which allows for a variety of uses, but caps the number of multi-family housing units at 200 and contains other limitations that were unfavorable to the developer.

For months this publication has raised the question as to whether the position that 183 units were allowed was valid.

Our reason? The section of Lee County ordinance #85-15 that sets the parameters for Town Center parcels reads: “Multiple-Family Dwelling Units – provided not more than 200 units are permitted throughout area 1, except as provided for in Section 1.07.”

Ordinance #85-15 is the ordinance that created Gateway and defined the parameters for what could be built in specific locations in the town.

We’ve pointed out over and over that Royal Greens consists of over 300 multi-family units, and that Royal Greens is in Area 1. We’ve wondered aloud why that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of ANY multi-family units to be built on that parcel under the current zoning parameters.

We pressed the county for an answer, which they provided earlier this week.

According to Lee County staff: “The limitation of 200 units only applies to properties specifically designated as Town Center in the Master Plan for Gateway. This means that properties in area 1 that have multi-family development, but are not designated as Town Center, are unaffected by this limitation. The Royal Greens Development is within area 1, but is designated as Multi-Family Subdistrict (not Town Center).”

Great, thank you.

But I wasn’t asking why Royal Greens has over 200 units.

I thought I was pretty clear that I was asking how the Boardwalk parcel could have ANY multi-family units given that Area 1 already has more than 200.

And to be clear, the ordinance does not read “provided not more than 200 units are permitted in properties specifically designated as Town Center throughout area 1″ or anything like that.

The ordinance, as it reads, simply says “throughout area 1”.

As to why the developer can only build 183 units and not the full 200, the county explained:

————–

The number of dwelling units is further limited by the availability of allocated dwelling units available in Unit 4 (as a sub-area of area 1). By staff’s initial review, there are 183 total dwelling units available within Unit 4.

Construction of more than 183 multiple family dwelling units, therefore, requires re-designation of the property into a different subdistrict (such as Multi-family Subdistrict) and transfer of additional dwelling units into Unit 4 through the public hearing process.

————–

In my view, the county still have not answered how the developer can build any multi-family units on the Boardwalk parcel. I’ve asked them twice now. Both times, they provided answers to completely different questions.

Anyway, it seems unlikely the developer’s plans for Boardwalk will change as a result of the the intense opposition from Gateway residents.

Should the developer proceed with filing an application for a zoning change, we will let you know.

The public hearings portion of that process should be quite lively.

It’s hard to agree with the county that 183 units are allowed when the language seems so clear.

To me when the ordinance says “throughout area 1”.. it means THROUGHOUT AREA 1.

It doesn’t mean “throughout certain sections of area 1” or “throughout parts of area 1 designated as such-and-such”.

It means THROUGHOUT AREA 1.

At least, that’s what it says in black and white.

I guess there might be precedent for this kind of interpretation in Lee County’s past? I simply don’t know.

But I do know I can read. And the ordinance specifically reads “throughout area 1”.

Speaking for myself, I’m not against a residential complex being built there. But I am against anything going there that’s four stories high. We all have our different objections to this project, something four stories high in that location is ridiculous to me.

I know many of you want retail outlets and restaurants built there, but keep in mind that will increase traffic to and from that parcel by 700% versus residential. So for those of you concerned about traffic at that intersection, you might want to consider that.

Anyways, now we wait to see if the developer files the re-zoning application.

Normally I like to predict which way boards will vote, but this time around I simply have no clue.

The Lee County Commissioners love it when empty properties are developed, but at the same time they’re also keenly aware of the town’s absolute rejection of Boardwalk at Gateway as it was presented.

So it’s too hard to predict what they’ll do in this case. But one thing is for sure, they’re going to know how you all feel about it.

I have no doubt about that.

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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