If I had the money, I would purchase the old Girl Scouts building and jump through whatever hoops it took to have it re-zoned. But I would not have it zoned for office space, or even commercial. I’d actually go through the process to have it zoned residential.

Why residential?

Because then I could be the only person who lives in Gateway without having to put up with an HOA.

I mean think about it: you get to live in Gateway, and no HOA board to deal with? It’s brilliant! Especially since I need to find somewhere new to live.

While I may not have the money to buy that building and move in to it, the Gateway Services District does.

And when they tried to do just that last year, a few Pinecrest residents decided to flex their muscle and block the quick-and-easy (and cheap) re-zoning process that would have made the Girl Scout building the district’s new headquarters. That meant the GSCDD would have had to go through the year-long, annoying (and expensive) re-zoning process to have it re-zoned for administrative use.

The district decided they didn’t want the hassle.

Fortunately for Gateway, some steely-eyed missile man realized that the CDD could/should just build their new HQ at the massive property the residents of Gateway already own at the Gateway Commons site. That way the GSCDD doesn’t have to pay for land, and they can design and construct a new building to suit their needs.

The question once again was zoning. So for a little while now the GSCDD has been working toward finding out whether the property was zoned in such a way that they could build an admin building on the property without a re-zoning hearing.

At last Thursdays meeting of the Board of Supervisors, it was revealed that Lee County gave the district some good news.

District Manager Chris Shoemaker told the board, “We just had a brief meeting, talked to the [Lee] County Planner. Basically you can put a building out there up to four stories. It can be an administrative building, add rec[reation] to it. The only thing they mentioned was if you want to do one development order, you do a building and your recreational uses including your concept plan, your bocce ball or whatever you’d like to have. Or if you want to just come in with a development order for a building and do the rec later. But there’s no problems with the county.”

So, wow.

After all this time.. we have a plan.

Well, we have the start of a plan. And no more worries about getting permission from Lee County.

If I was Chairman Margaret Fineberg, Supervisor Ed Tinkle and Supervisor Kathleen Flaherty, I’d get moving on that plan. You see, something is going to be displayed in a prominent position on one of the walls of the new HQ building. Do you know what that something is?

A plaque.

And on that plaque will be the names of the Board of Supervisors on the day that building opens. So those five names will be immortalized in Gateway, or at least for the next half-century.

Tinkle has already announced that he will not be running again. Fineberg barely beat George Huskamp in the 2016 election, and that was before she cast those political career-ending Lake Bank spending votes, so she’s done. Flaherty voted the right way on the ponds, but won’t be able to fool families with children a second time next election, so it’ll be questionable if she can win again.

My point for those three is: they had better get things moving along if they’re at all interested in leaving the new district headquarters as part of their legacy.

Regardless of whose names go on the wall, the bigger picture is that the plan to develop the Gateway Commons area just got a massive boost. The fact the new HQ can be built there will be a catalyst to get the entire project, including new amenities for the residents, moving forward.

This was actually an even better outcome than buying the Girl Scouts building. It will be cheaper since the residents already own the land, the building will be brand new and can be designed and built with the latest cost-saving energy technologies, and the layout will be exactly according to the GSCDD’s needs.

The plan is perfect for Gateway.

Now it’s up to the district, both the board and staff collectively, to get in gear and move this project forward.

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

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