Boardwalk project reduced to 220 housing units, avoiding a showdown with Lee County Commissioners

Posted on February 10, 2020, 9:55 am
7 mins

There are two points I want to make when it comes to the sudden, surprise and scaled-back approval of the Boardwalk condo development to be located at the northeast corner of the Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive intersection.

First point … I realize based on comments I’ve read on social media over the last little while that it’s become fashionable in Gateway to blame Lee County’s elected commissioners for anything and everything residents can think of that they don’t like… but when it comes to Boardwalk, there’s only one logical reason the developers scaled the project back so drastically: they must have known that the Lee County Commissioners were going to vote against the plan they had presented to the public in 2018.

If the developers thought the Commissioners would have approved it, they would have proceeded with the public hearing process and built the much larger version of the housing complex which orignally had over 300 units.

Instead the developers got the reduced number of units pushed through at the county staff level, meaning the Commissioners never even had the chance to cast a vote.

Gateway’s representative on the Lee County board, Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, provided the following statement on Friday, February 7, 2020:

“I was informed today at 5:00 p.m. by county staff that the Gateway Boulevard and Griffin Drive property owner has decided to forego filing to rezone the parcel. Instead, they intend to develop the property under the existing 220 allowable units, which was approved many years ago by a prior board. Personally, as a 25-year Gateway resident, I share the same concerns as my neighbors. Unfortunately, unless a rezoning is requested, the project will not come before the current Commission and the Board has no authority to change the land use entitlements that were established and approved in 1989 under the Westinghouse (Gateway) Master DRI plan. If the property owner does move forward, I will personally monitor the project to ensure lawful and responsible land use compliance with respect to transportation need improvements, protection of our wetlands on the eastern portion of the property and overall protection of our neighborhood’s quality of life. I will provide you with updates via Lee County Government as I obtain more information. As you know, I am one of five commissioners. As we move forward through the process, please do not hesitate to contact me or any of the commissioners should you have any questions.”

Not to be repetitive, but I feel the reason the developers settled for 220 units instead of the 300+ they wanted is because they wanted to avoid the Commissioners.

Second point… I’d still like to know how the developer can build any multi-family units at all on the Boardwalk parcel, let alone 220 of them.

Here in blue text is the question I originally posed to Lee County Senior Planner Dirk Danley Jr. on August 26, 2018:

Dirk,

I’m writing in regards to the proposed “Boardwalk at Gateway” community…

When when Gateway was created by Lee County Ordinance #85-15 the land at the corner of Gateway and Griffin was deemed to be used for a “Town Center” as you know.

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.”

Specifically, #85-15 says it can be used for: “Multiple-Family Dwelling Units – provided not more than 200 units are permitted throughout area 1, except as provided for in Section 1.07.”

Royal Greens at Gateway is in Area 1… Royal Greens consists of multi-family units exactly as they’re defined in #85-15… and Royal Greens has more than 200 units…

Therefore there are already more than 200 multi-family units in Area 1.. and Section 1.07 doesn’t seem to carve out any exceptions…

So… how can the developer proceed with up to 183 units in the Town Center without any further changes? can you please explain? How does Royal Greens not effectively end the idea of multi-family units on that parcel under the Town Center designation?

Thank you..

— Jeff

This was Danley Jr’s response, in red.

There is currently no Multi-family development located on properties designated Town Center in Area 1

That’s not what the ordinance says though.

Quoting the Gateway ordinance again, the following use is permitted:

Multiple-family dwelling units, provided not more than two hundred (200) units are permitted throughout area 1

Notice that it says: throughout area 1.

It does not say: located on properties designated Town Center in Area 1

One more time … it doesn’t say that only “properties designated Town Center” count toward the limit.

It says: throughout area 1.

Given the existence of Royal Greens in Area 1, which meet the criteria for multi-family dwelling units as described in the ordinance, Danley Jr’s answer doesn’t make sense to me.

If any county leader who happens to be reading this would like to use his or her influence to direct Danley Jr. to properly answer this question that I feel he’s evaded since August 2018 – preferably before these developers go and permanently ruin the look and feel of Gateway’s main intersection and possibly the entire town – I’m sure many people would appreciate it.

I want to know how the existence of Royal Greens doesn’t automatically rule out multi-family dwellings on the Boardwalk property.

Why doesn’t Royal Greens qualify as being included in the “throughout area 1” limitation from the ordinance?

If anyone else can explain to me what I’m missing, please feel free to contact me. I’m not saying I’m right about this… I’m saying as I read the ordinance there must be something I’m missing or that I don’t understand because the language in the ordinance seems pretty clear.

 

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

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