Earlier this week we broke the news of a proposed new residential complex that would be built at the northeast corner of Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive.

We have some additional details.

Once complete the site would consist of seven buildings that have 48 units apiece, or 336 units in total. Each building would have four floors, presumably with 12 units per floor.

The project would be built in two phases and have three street entrances/exits: one on Gateway Boulevard, one on Griffin Drive, and off Devonshire Lakes Drive (near Sanibel Captiva Bank).

One common question we’ve seen is “how will they accommodate parking?”

That would actually not be a problem since the site is 13 acres.

Suppose the average unit is 1200 square feet, and there’s 12 units per floor. That would be 14,400 square feet per just for the units. Plus you have walk-ways, common areas, etc.

But consider that 1 acre is 43,560 square feet. So including common areas you could probably fit 2 of the seven buildings in one acre, or at least come close.

Let’s say they need 4 acres for the 7 buildings, they would still have 9 acres left.

Assuming this complex would be deemed to have low turnover parking lots, that would mean the spots need to be 9 feet by 18 feet. You could fit nearly 270 parking spots in 1 acre. That does not count the pavement you would need to navigate in and out of the spots, but still. With 9 acres to work with, parking for 750 vehicles wouldn’t be an issue.

But here’s something that definitely is an issue, or at least one of them.

The developers will likely point to the four stories of their project and say “Gartner has four stories so it’s allowed in Gateway”. That’s true. In fact, unless Lee County Ordinance #85-15 was amended at some point in this regard, you’re technically allowed to build up to 10 stories high in Gateway.

But think about what’s near Gartner Building 2.

There’s obviously Gartner Building 1, which is 3 stories….. Gateway Charter High School, also 3 stories… Royal Greens, 3 stories.. and Alta Resources which certainly appears to be 3 stories but I’ve only ever been in the lobby.

Constructing a four-story building among that many three story structures doesn’t change much. Plus it’s a largely commercial area anyway and that building is right next to a major road in Daniels Parkway. It didn’t affect anyone’s view at home.

Now consider what would surround the four-story residential complex in the middle of Gateway:

7/Eleven, 1 story…. Fairway Office Park, multiple 1 story buildings… Devonshire, 1 story homes.. Part of the Gateway Greens community, all 1 story homes that are next to Gateway Boulevard.. and the Sanibel Captiva building, which 2 stories.

Putting a four-story complex in the middle of all that would not fit the surroundings whatsoever

So pointing to Gartner’s Building 2 for justification, if that’s what they attempt to do, is an apples and oranges situation.

And there’s another issue that nobody has really pointed out, so I’ll come out and say it:

When you read the official plan for that piece of property and look at what’s been built around it, clearly that land was intended for commercial use. And the owner of the property purchased it knowing full-well that the intent for that area was for businesses – not a residential complex.

When when Gateway was created by Lee County Ordinance #85-15 that land at the corner of Gateway and Griffin was deemed to be used for a “Town Center”. We know this because the developer’s proposal specifically requests for the designation of that land to be changed from “Town Center” to “Multi-Family”.

According to #85-15: The purpose and intent of the Town Center is to establish areas for hotels, offices, multi-family residences, and certain commercial facilities serving GATEWAY residents, the Greater Lee County area and the visiting public.

Obviously you’ll notice the “multi-family residences” part. This is the loop-hole the developer is aiming to take advantage of.

#85-15 also says: Multiple-Family Dwelling Units – provided not more than 200 units are permitted throughout area 1, except as provided for in Section 1.07.

I read section 1.07 and it doesn’t really matter a whole lot here. So the question is what is “Area 1”.

The map of Gateway from #85-15 (Exhibit ‘C’) is barely recognizable and so I don’t know exactly what all Area 1 or the Town Center consists of, exactly. So is it possible there already are multi-family units on the section of land known as the Town Center which would take away from the 200 available units?

Lee County Ordinance #85-15 was amended by the following later ordinances: #88-08, #89-46, #98-19, #02-27 and #12-04. None of those ordinances contains a change to the Town Center area that I saw. So 200 multi-family units still appears to be the maximum.

The bottom line is that 336-unit residential complex was never supposed to be allowed on that piece of property. Therefore, the developer requesting a change to the ordinance that formed Gateway is required in order to build a complex with 336 units.

But more importantly to everyone else in Gateway who doesn’t own that land, the spirit of #85-15, and seeing how the surrounding areas were developed strongly suggests that the area at the corner of Gateway and Griffin was supposed to be for commercial use. It was intended to contain businesses that serve Gateway residents and visitors. And you can rest assured that the developer knows that. They just don’t care.

So what can be done?

First, as always, you can put pressure on the politicians. At yesterday’s Gateway Services District meeting, Supervisor Ed Tinkle announced that he will be attending the meeting and he assumed other Supervisors would like to go as well. That’s all well and good, and they should show up. But this project isn’t their call. The decision will rest with the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Gateway’s representative on that board happens to be a Gateway resident, Mr. Cecil Pendergrass. Pendergrass is the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, meaning that he is the top person in the Lee County government. And… since this project is in his district it seems possible that the other Commissioners will give Pendergrass’ position on the matter a little bit of extra consideration. (See? It’s not what you know – it’s who you know.)

One bit of housekeeping: In the Gateway Sun‘s article earlier this week we wrote that we felt it was likely the Commissioners were aware of this project. Mr. Pendergrass’ office corrected us and said that the Chairman was not aware, and that he learned about the proposed development from this publication. Which means this whole thing is only at the beginning stages.

It’s important to note that the Chairman is not permitted to attend Tuesday’s meeting. The reason is that if this application goes forward he will be making a ruling on it. So under Florida law he cannot attend the meeting, speak to the developers, or even speak to residents. You’re permitted to write him and voice your opinion but if I understand correctly he’s not allowed to write back, aside from perhaps his staff acknowledging receipt of your email or letter. So it’s not that he doesn’t care enough to go to the meeting or respond to your feedback, it’s that he legally cannot.

All that said, if this application goes forward I would highly suggest a very loud campaign consisting of Gateway residents writing to Mr. Pendergrass as he will be a key player in the final decision. Those letters should be accompanied by letters to the four other members of the Board of County Commissioners as well. We’ll let you know when and if that time arises.

Second, and more importantly right now, there will be a public meeting on Tuesday, April 10 at 5pm at Relevance Church at 13241 Griffin Drive. The meeting is being hosted by the developer so they can present their plan, and the public is welcome. Based on social media chatter the developers are sure to receive an icy reception from the community.

The single most important thing you can do is show up to that meeting and let the developer know how you feel. If you do not want this project to proceed, you have an opportunity to possibly nip it in the bud by showing up and letting them know their development is unwelcome.

Now … a word of caution … If you read our first article on this topic, you noticed there was very much a “correct me if I’m wrong” tone in it. And that’s because a lot of these ordinances have been changed along the way and I’m just not 100% sure of everything that has happened over the past 30+ years.

So I want to relay that same disclaimer here to this article, and once again I welcome anyone with more information to let me know and I will be sure to pass it long.



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

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