Thursday, June 12, 2008

How would this be Zoned ? RPD ?

This project from "Work AC" for the odd-shaped block at Canal and Varick Streets in New York City sets one's mind a buzz! Can you imagine the discussions in Lee County's Department of Community Development on which level should be where to met the intent of the LEE Plan and how it meets the proper set backs and density for our zoning codes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Wonderful World of Zoning

I found this painting by Josh Keyes, it appeared to me, that he was trying to capture that world of Zoning that some of us have to deal with to get projects built. Ying and Yang !

Monday, May 5, 2008


"A picture is worth a thousand words", the saying goes. Need we say more ? (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New High Density Development

News Release : Fort Myers, Fl. - The Lee County Board of County Commissioners and the City of Fort Myers City Council jointly announced the joint approval and start of development planning of 4 Towers Place. The project is unique because it will be built in the "air rights" over the intersection of Colonial and McGregor Boulevard. Ray Judah Chairman of the Lee County Commission believes the 1,000 unit project is counter intuitive. "It is a "no brainier"! The County and City will joint venture this project as a means to helping our local economy. Plus, think of all the Impact Fees it will generate !" The City Council loudly applauded (and wooted) thinking that the county would finally pay their portion of the impact fees for the new Courthouse parking garage so that the project could be stared and help the congestion on MLK Boulevard. When ask how the project location was chosen, Mayor Humphrey replied,... we needed to get it out of the River District so we would not have to concern ourselves with the confining River District Master Plan ! He also stated that it was political pay back time for all the "Old Fort Myers Blue Bloods" that held up the Mid-Point bridge for 25 years. He went on to say," will be a great visual termination to the west end of Colonial Boulevard." He dryly commented, "Anyway, who cares about Cape Coral !" When asked if they were concerned that a project of this size might further depress our current housing market, Commissioner Jaduh responded that by the time the project gets through the Community Development department and the building departments of the county and city, the County Manager, Don Stilwell estimated it might be 2025. ( His exact comment was, "Well it could be 2025 if everything goes right.") Mayor Humphrey said he had his staff draw up a revised plan of the project at the time of construction in 2025. (photo rendering below)

They both agreed that when approved and built in 2025-2040, it would fit into the surrounding area taking into consideration Al Gore's predictions of global warming. After the announcement, the party move into a tent set up in the middle of the intersection for a luncheon. The meal was prepared by the school district cafeteria staff. Mayor Humphrey was heard to remark while eating his PB&J sandwich that he hoped that the staffs could retain their tight fisted fiduciary attitude throughout the whole project. "There will be no finger pointing that this project is a Gold Plater!"

Late breaking update: The Fort Myers News-Press is investigating whether the shovels that the ground breaking team were giving were actually solid 24k gold and not just Home Depot shovels painted with gold Rust-Oleum. Mr. Stilwell thought the charges that they were manipulating the gold market were unfounded. More information to follow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rational Planning

From Wikipedia...

The rational planning model is the process of realizing a problem, establishing and evaluating planning criteria, create alternatives, implementing alternatives, and monitoring progress of the alternatives. It is used in designing neighborhoods, cities, and regions. The rational planning model is central in the development of modern urban planning.

Three concepts of rational planning

The rational planning model concepts were created by John Friedmann. Friedmann describes the three concepts of rationality that have informed planning as:

Market rationality

Market rationality is described as being grounded in metaphysics of possessive individualism and which predicates the individual as existing prior to society. Society then becomes the mechanism that enables individuals to pursue their private interests. This prior-to status gives market rationally a quasi-natural character, and ranks it as being beyond human intention, thereby making its assumptions unavoidably compelling. From this perspective, reason is the means toward the maximization of private satisfactions.

Beans rationality

Social rationality is the opposite assumption, that the social group grants the individual their identity through membership in the group. Reason becomes the tool of the collective interest and functions as the avenue toward communal satisfactions.

A third concept

The third concept is a hybrid of the preceding two and seeks some middle ground between them. Friedmann identifies it with the realization on the part of capital that some state sponsored restraint was necessary to curtail the excesses of market rationality and provide for the public good. Friedmann calls this type of rationality social or modern planning. It is explicitly concerned with social outcomes.


The three types of rationality that Friedman describes as structuring modern rational planning model are united on their reliance upon the methodology of empirical scientific investigation.

The distinctions that Friedmann makes allows the rational planning model to be used as a tool of social speech that creates it own processes according to the uses to which it is put. The rational planning model acts as a mediator between market and social rationality, and exists between different criteria of what is fundamentally rational.

The rational planning model has its origins in the scientific and philosophic revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries, and in the social revolutions of the Enlightenment which gave public form to urban planning fundamentals and rational worldviews. The profession of modern urban planning is not based on the rational planning model; it identifies what planners have come to identify as rational and have come to an understanding of how the rational planning model affects an urban planner’s decisions. The modern style of urban planning is essentially the rational planning model in its ideological framework.

The rational planning model has also been called the classical rational problem solving process, the rational comprehensive method, the “policy analysis strand of conservative forms of societal guidance planning”, and “the ruling or normal paradigm that governs the practice of modern planning.” Although it has a myriad of names, it has a singular approach to problem solving. This approach is the systematic evaluation of alternative means toward a preferred goal. Once a goal has been selected, the prevailing assumption is that there are only certain correct ways of achieving it.

Six points of rational planning

There are six points to the rational planning model:


Verifying, defining & detailing the problem (problem definition, goal definition, information gathering). This step includes recognizing the problem, defining an initial solution, and starting primary analysis. Examples of this are creative devising, creative ideas, inspirations, breakthroughs, and brainstorms.

Establishing evaluative criteria

Evaluative criteria are measurements to determine success and failure of alternatives. This step contains secondary and final analysis along with secondary solutions to the problem. Examples of this are site suitability and site sensitivity analysis.

Identifying alternatives to achieve goals

This step encloses two to three final solutions to the problem and preliminary implementation to the site. Examples of this are Planned Units of Development and downtown revitalizations.

Evaluating alternative policies

This step comprises a final solution and secondary implementation to the site. At this point the process has developed into different strategies of how to apply the solutions to the site.

Implementing the preferred alternative

This step includes final implementation to the site and preliminary monitoring of the outcome and results of the site. This step is the building/renovations part of the process.

Monitoring and evaluating outcomes and results

This step contains the secondary and final monitoring of the outcomes and results of the site. This step takes place over a long period of time.

Current status

While the rational planning model was innovative at its conception, the concepts are controversial and questionable processes today. The rational planning model has fallen out of mass use as of the last decade.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Is This Reporting ?

Here is a good example from the Sunday, News-Press of a reporter not understanding business, but trying to use a story to create a problem and sell newspapers. It sits in the "Let's create a problem, where there is none" file ! It looks good on the old Ganett resume. Remember Fort Myers is just a low stepping stone for reporters in the Ganett chain. They trash the area for their own steps upward and the big time.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are We In Good Hands ?

This article by Elizabeth Rhodes from the Seattle Time of February 15, 2008, makes one think, should the BOCC and City governments be reviewing our codes to see where they are costing our residences money ?

UW study: Rules add $200,000 to Seattle house price

Seattle Times business reporter

Backed by studies showing that middle-class Seattle residents can no longer afford the city's middle-class homes, consensus is growing that prices are too darned high. But why are they so high?

An intriguing new analysis by a University of Washington economics professor argues that home prices have, perhaps inadvertently, been driven up $200,000 by good intentions.

Between 1989 and 2006, the median inflation-adjusted price of a Seattle house rose from $221,000 to $447,800. Fully $200,000 of that increase was the result of land-use regulations, says Theo Eicher — twice the financial impact that regulation has had on other major U.S. cities.

"In a nationwide study, it can be shown that Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations," he says.

A key regulation is the state's Growth Management Act, enacted in 1990 in response to widespread public concern that sprawl could destroy the area's unique character. To preserve it, the act promoted restrictions on where housing can be built. The result is artificial density that has driven up home prices by limiting supply, Eicher says.

Long building-permit approval times and municipal land-use restrictions upheld by courts also have played significant roles in increasing Seattle's housing costs, he adds.

(While his data reflect owner-occupied homes within the city of Seattle only, Eicher thinks the same basic findings may apply to surrounding cities.)

Eicher's $200,000 conclusion doesn't surprise Kriss Sjoblom, staff economist for the Washington Research Council, a nonpartisan organization that examines public-policy issues.

"It's actually pleasing," Sjoblom says, "that we finally have data that allows us to show things we thought were there all the time."

A UW professor for 13 years, Eicher is also the founding director of the UW's Economic Policy Research Center. Its goal is to provide analysis that will inform regional policy debates.

Eicher says the research center long wanted to analyze the impact of regulation on housing prices, and found a way when researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed the Wharton Residential Land Use Regulatory Index. Based on a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. municipalities, it provided the first nationwide analysis and comparison of the effects of land-use regulation.

Eicher requested Seattle's data from the Wharton Index and analyzed it further. That led him to put a price tag on local land-use regulations.

He received no outside funding for the project and stresses he makes no value judgments about whether regulation is good, bad or needs to change.

Rather, Eicher wants the public to "understand the impact of their choices. There's always a cost associated with the cityscape. Who wants to have no parks in the city? Or, a 10-story high-rise in Blue Ridge? But there's a cost to that."

Compared with 250 major U.S. cities, he says, Seattle:

• Is first in terms of the impact of state political involvement in land issues.

• Is in the top 3 percent for approval delays for new construction.

• Is in the top 10 percent in local political pressure influencing land use.

As an example of how this plays out, Eicher explains that "the statewide growth-management plan gave King County few options but to require that landowners in rural areas that haven't already cleared their land to keep 50 to 65 percent of their property in its 'natural state.' This forced greater density in Seattle."

Then a King County referendum to repeal some of the county's land-use restrictions was judged illegal in 2006 by the state Supreme Court because it violated the state's Growth Management Act.

"The state is intervening to restrict supply. It's not that there's no land at all," Eicher says.

Economists hold that housing costs are driven by supply and demand, and say those factors have certainly influenced the cost of Seattle's housing.

But Eicher argues that "demand does not need to drive up housing prices."

Cities such as Houston and Atlanta, which have few growth restrictions, have shown that. They've been able to add enough housing to meet demand, so their home prices have risen more moderately than heavily regulated San Francisco and Boston, which have a harder time increasing housing.

According to the Wharton study, cities such as Seattle that have high median incomes, high home prices and a large percentage of college-educated workers tend to have the most land-use regulations.

Sjoblom says that makes sense: "People with higher incomes want the kind of amenities that regulation provides," he says. "If you're a homeowner and growth controls are imposed and housing prices shoot up, you're grandfathered because you own the place. In theory people will say it's [rising prices] a bad thing, but in practice it's not hurting them."

Sjoblom says that's why making the changes that would foster affordability are so hard to get past the public, some 68 percent of whom are homeowners. "When you bring up specific things, like allowing multifamily housing in their neighborhood, they have misgivings."

That frustrates renters, who suspect they're being priced out. And they're right, according to a housing-affordability index created by the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.

Last summer, King County's potential first-time buyers earning the median family income ($75,143) had just 37 percent of the financial wherewithal to buy the median-priced single-family house ($477,000) at the prevailing interest rate (6.47 percent).

Five years earlier, when King County's median-priced house cost $282,500, median-income, first-time buyers possessed 72 percent of the income needed.

(No breakout statistics are available for Seattle.)

But various government regulations make it challenging to add more affordable housing, notes Sam Anderson. He's executive officer of the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties, which has pushed government to rethink some of the regulations.

Anderson estimates that regulatory costs comprise up to 30 percent of the total cost of building a new house (land costs included). The laundry list of fees and requirements can run to 30 or more, depending on where the house is built.

Among them, Anderson says, are transportation, school and park impact fees, stormwater management fees, critical-areas mitigation and monitoring, pavement requirements and rockery permits.

And then there's the dollar cost of the process itself.

Building in Seattle can be very time-consuming compared with nearby cities, because of Seattle's neighborhood-based design-review process, says Linda Stalzer, project development director for the Dwelling Company, an Eastside homebuilder.

Design-review committees, composed of citizens interested in architecture and development, are located throughout Seattle; their job is to review commercial and multifamily housing designs before they're approved.

"Depending on how complicated your project is, it might take you three or four times to get through it," Stalzer says.

Add together all the various review and comment periods, and it can take 12 to 18 months to get to the point of applying for a building permit, she says.

On a 25-unit Capitol Hill town-house project now under way, Stalzer estimated the various fees (including consulting and mitigation costs, but not building permits or land prices) have totaled about $650,000.

"I think there's value in going through the process because we're building things that have an impact on communities," Stalzer says. "The difficult part is the process isn't very efficient."

In the final analysis, Eicher believes Seattle's regulatory climate exists because its residents want it. "My sense is land-use restrictions are imposed to generate socially desirable outcomes," he says. "We all love parks and green spaces. But we must also be informed about the costs. It's very easy to vote for a park if you think the cost is free."

Elizabeth Rhodes:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What it is not !

With our wonderful weather and envirornment wouldn't it be nice if builders actually created great outdoor spaces for the residents? (The 1923 Alice Millard House in Pasadena, CA designed by Frank Lloyd Wright)

Monday, February 4, 2008

We Are Watching

Did you ever get the feeling this is what Planning and Zoning are all about ? Remember planning is not zoning and zoning is not planning. Is our community any better off by the government taking the community's resident's property rights away from them for the false premise that it is for the communities good ?

Remember in the 1926 Supreme Court case Village of Euclid v Ambler Realty Co. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of comprehensive zoning, only because, a planner and attorney Alfred Bettman submitted a "friend of the court" breif on behalf of the Village of Euclid, arguing that zoning is a form of nuisance control and therefore a reasonable police power measure. The court agreed. The court did not agree with the arguments made by the Village of Euclid that zoning should be used to protect the general welfare of the community.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Affordable Housing Survey

The 4th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey 2008 - Ratings for Major Urban Markets. has been released. There is alot of good information in this report. It would be very useful if our leaders cared to be BOLD and think of the residents of Lee County!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Six things you might not know about planning

I found this in a blog called Intermodality. Though this is about a concern in Houston,, TX, it is very useful for us in viewing Planning and Zoning in Lee County and how these two issues effect us.

Six things you might not know about planning

2008 started with a new development in an old Houston debate. Former mayor Bob Lanier and several real estate developers have organized a PAC to fight increased building regulations, speaking to city council and bringing in anti-planning speakers. It might seem as if old battle lines have been re-drawn, and we’re in for another zoning fight. But things are not nearly that simple. Here are some ways in which the usual assumptions are wrong:

There are more than two sides to this debate. In fact, I count four. Bob Lanier is pro-growth and anti-planning. The people fighting the Ashby highrise are anti-growth and pro-planning; they want new regulations to prevent new development in their neighborhoods. But many of the people talking about planning are actually pro-growth and pro-planning; they see Houston is growing and they want that growth to happen intelligently. And if you look hard enough you’ll find people who are anti-growth and anti-planning; they probably think that the problem is illegal immigration or maybe public subsidies for sports stadiums. It’s the anti-growth/ pro-planning people who are setting the agenda right now; a backlash against unplanned growth in established neighborhoods is leading many to want to stop growth altogether. That worries the pro-growth, anti-planning developers. But it also worries the pro-growth, pro-planning crowd. The thing to watch is who allies with whom.

Houston already has building regulations. Houston’s development regulations regulate how far buildings have to be from the street, how much parking has to be provided, how much green space there needs to be around buildings, and much more. The net effect is to limit density, increase the cost of urban development, and encourage suburban-style development. And while the city doesn’t implement use-based zoning, deed restrictions in most Houston neighborhoods do. Deed restrictions are actually more draconian than government zoning since they are so hard to change.

The Houston region has some of the strictest zoning in the country. Planned communities are called that for a reason. Every large suburban development in Houston has an extensive set of restrictions that govern the shape, appearance, and use of buildings. These are as strict as anything a government agency ever dreamed of. And suburban cities like Sugar Land has extensive government-imposed zoning as well.

Planning doesn’t imply zoning. Government agencies spend a lot of money on building things: roads, sewers, drainage, water lines, parks, transit, fire stations, libraries. These things are the infrastructure of growth, so where and how they are built helps determine where growth will happen. Harris County, the City of Houston, and the Texas Department of Transportation are routinely predicting and encouraging development by building new roads and new highways. They’re also trying to keep up with growth. But the agencies that build these things often don’t talk to each other. Simply coordinating the efforts of multiple agencies to avoid costly duplication and to cost-effectively support growth could go a long way.

Zoning doesn’t imply planning. In the perfect world of a textbooks, planners divide a city into zones based on some broad vision. In reality, zoning has to be tailored to existing conditions, and then it’s repeatedly changed based on the desires of neighborhoods and developers. The result is a mess, dictated not by a coherent plan but by whoever has the most political clout. These random and oddly specific rules often have strange results: there’s a new condo development in New York where owners can’t stay more than 120 days a year and no more than 39 days in a row since it’s zoned as a hotel.

Developers dislike uncertainty more than they dislike rules. Buying land and developing a building is a risky business: you’re making a bet that you can building on time and on budget and that the market is on your side. Regulations that are unclear, or regulations that require the developer to get political approvals, add to that risk. Neighborhoods often push for such regulations. But the irony is that neighborhoods benefit for unambiguous rules, too, since they mean it’s not necessary to mobilize and fight each new development proposal.

There is an intriguing possibility here. Conventional zoning is clearly imperfect, and so is Houston’s current regulatory system. Could we come up with something that’s better than either? Or will we simply re-fight old fights based on incorrect assumptions?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Garden City

The garden city movement is an approach to urban planning that was founded in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. Garden cities were to be planned, self-contained communities surrounded by greenbelts, and containing carefully balanced areas of residences, industry, and agriculture.

Inspired by the Utopian novel Looking Backward, Howard published To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898 (reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow), organized the Garden City Association in 1899, and founded two cities in England: Letchworth Garden City in 1903, and Welwyn Garden City in 1920. (Letchworth is commonly referred to as such, and Welwyn called by its complete name or abbreviated slightly as Welwyn Garden.) Both designs are durable successes and healthy communities today, although not a complete realization of Howard's ideals.

Howard's successor as chairman of the Garden City Association was Sir Frederic Osborn, who extended the movement into regional planning. [1]

The idea of the garden city was influential in the United States (in Newport News, Virginia's Hilton Village; Pittsburgh's Chatham Village; Sunnyside, Queens; Radburn, New Jersey; Jackson Heights, Queens; the Woodbourne neighborhood of Boston; Garden City, New York; and Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles), in Canada (in Kapuskasing, Ontario and Walkerville, Ontario) and in Argentina (in ciudad jardín de Lomas del Palomar). The first German garden city, Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, was founded in 1909. The concept was drawn upon for German worker housing built during the Weimar years, and again in England after World War II when the New Towns Act triggered the development of many new communities based on Howard's egalitarian vision. The garden city movement also influenced the British urbanist Sir Patrick Geddes in the planning of Tel-Aviv, Israel. Contemporary town planning charters like New Urbanism and Principles of Intelligent Urbanism find their origins in this movement. Today, there are many garden cities in the world. Most of them, however, exist as just Dormitory suburbs, which completely differ from what Howard wanted to create.

Per Wikipedia

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Future of I-75 ?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gated Community Entries

Thought you would like a peek at the new user friendly gated community entries. They welcome everyone in the community with open arms ! Well landscaped and designed to reduce problems with obsuring vision for enty and exit traffic.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Creative Development

The question is, would the developer be able to get it zoned with all the variances needed ? Where does it fit into our comprehensive plan ? But most importantly, would the Department of Community Development, Hearings Examiner, and BOCC all have the VISION and FORTITUDE to see a project like this through without the attitude of; "let's run this developer out of time and money" And let's not forget the Impact Fees !

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Village Law ?

The Antiplanner recently had an interesting article on a proposal by Robert Nelson, a University of Maryland professor, to change our antiquated zoning laws...

Missouri Law Should Be a Model for the Nation

How do we fix planning and zoning laws that make housing unaffordable and give planners the opportunity to impose their utopian ideas on unwilling neighborhoods? One answer has been offered by Robert Nelson, a University of Maryland professor of public policy. In various articles and books, Nelson has proposed that states allow neighborhoods to opt out of zoning and write their own zoning codes in the form of protective covenants.

Houston already has a system like this, albeit without zoning. Anyone who lives in a neighborhood that doesn’t already have protective covenants can petition their neighbors and, if a majority agree, create a homeowners association and write such covenants. Nelson has essentially proposed to allow this in all cities, and to slowly replace zoning with such covenants.

But what about rural areas? Should people be allowed to opt out of rural zoning? Since the Antiplanner is not too fond of such rural zoning, clearly my answer would be “yes.” And a law recently passed in Missouri effectively allows this to take place.

According to this law, landowners in an unincorporated area may form a “village” provided they have the approval of a majority of the people living in that area. This village would then take over zoning and other regulatory powers from the counties. Developers frustrated by county planners and bureaucratic red tape can effectively do an end run around them.

As described in this recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this law has the counties hopping mad because it tramples on their authority. They claim dire consequences if landowners only have to obey federal and state laws — as if there weren’t enough of those — instead of also having to follow county ordinances.

Obviously, the Antiplanner is not persuaded by these claims. California and other states with planning-induced housing shortages would do well to pass a law modeled after Missouri’s village law.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year !

May we all have a safe, prosperous and successful New Year ! Hopefully our local leaders will start to think creativily and start thinking outside the box.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Impact Fees Drop

From todays NEWS-PRESS 12/20/07

County projects wait for construction cash
Slump lowers impact fees, which fund construction

By Ryan Lengerich
Originally posted on December 20, 2007

The new-home building crunch has made a harsh impact, on Lee County impact fees. Parks, roads and school projects are the main casualties. Take, for example, Wa-keh Hatchee Recreation Center. Construction on the $12 million park with baseball fields, a playground and dog park was targeted for groundbreaking in January.

However, you can expect that land where the indoor recreation center is standing, adjacent to Lexington Middle School in south Fort Myers, to sit vacant for at least another five years.

"The big thing is that we certainly see the economy in our impact fee collections and the ups and downs of it," said John Yarbrough, parks and recreation director. "What that means is some projects are going to be delayed."

Impact fees are a one-time bill on new construction to defray the cost of providing and expanding services and facilities that benefit new development. A community park impact fee in unincorporated Lee County is $795 for a single-family home. Impact fees are imposed when a building permit is pulled.

In the 2005 fiscal year the parks department collected $10.2 million for community parks, in 2006 it was $9.4 million. The recent market crash crushed the impact fees to just $3.5 million in the 2007 fiscal year, which ran from October 2006 to September.

The numbers include Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs.

"I think overall it's unwelcome," Yarbrough said. "At the same time it gives us a chance to refocus, reprioritize and not that we don't do that, but make sure our priorities are where they should be with the projects."

Impact fees can fund only new park projects, not operations and salaries, Yarbrough said. Phase three of the Ten Mile Linear Park expansion from Crystal Drive to Colonial Boulevard will be completed in about six months. Future expansion is on hold until the market recovers.

The county transportation department — for which 85 percent of the capital improvement budget comes from impact fees — has felt the wave.

"Our major funding source is tied to building permits, so that is the risk we run," said Dave Loveland, planning manager for Lee Department of Transportation.

Single-family home permits in unincorporated Lee, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach have nosedived since fiscal year 2005 when 20,578 were pulled. In 2006 there were 17,141 and in the most recent fiscal year, 6,572.

That's a 67 percent decline.

The money streaming in from impact fees is used as cash in hand to award contracts. He said bidding projects in the short term is under control, but when the department updates its capital improvement program beginning in March, some projects may be pushed back.

Transportation took in $35.5 million in fiscal year 2007 including Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach. That's a 28 percent drop.

"The plus side is we are seeing bids come in less than our budgeted amount," he said.

The market turn has made construction companies eager for work, and they have become more competitive and are offering lower bids. In November, Posen Construction of Michigan's bid on the $25 million Summerlin widening between Cypress Lake and Boy Scout drives, including a flyover at College Parkway, came in $13 million under the county's budget.

On Wednesday, the low bid for a widening project for Plantation Road expected to cost as much as $7.5 million came in at $4 million.

"The cash is coming in less, but the bids are lower," Loveland said.

Michael Reitmann, executive vice president of the Lee Building Industry Association, said the downturn should make the county consider other ways to generate revenue.

"We need to get a handle on not just allowing impact fees to pay for infrastructure," he said.

The impact fees are deterring the building industry from pulling the permits and not to expect the new housing market to kick up anytime soon, he said.

"We've got to get rid of the inventory because it doesn't make any business sense to start building if you got homes out there."

Impact fees for Lee County schools raised $23.6 million this past fiscal year. It's money is used for capital improvement projects.

In the 2006 fiscal year the fees collected peaked at $54.8 million. That's a 57 percent drop. A spokesperson for the district did not return calls seeking comment.

IMPACT FEES Impact fees collected in Lee County, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach. List does not include fire districts. (In millions by fiscal year ending in the year noted.) Community Parks: 2005, $10.2 2006, $9.5 2007, $3.5 Roads: 2005, $49.2 2006, $44.9 2007, $35.5 School district: 2005, $43.0 2006, $54.8 2007, $23.6 Emergency Medical (not in millions) 2005, $446,459 2006, $434,036 2007, $766,264 (due to fee increase) Regional parks: 2005, $7.0 2006, $8.0 2007, $3.0 Source: Lee County

It is interesting that I have not seen, heard or read that any one from the county has yet to admit that they have to be weened from this high fat impact fee diet which just picks the pockets of the resident's of Lee County.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Impact Fees for Us ? I Think Not !

If Traffic stalls Fort Myers garage vote

By Ryan Hiraki
Originally posted on December 18, 2007

A failure to agree on the traffic impact of a new downtown Fort Myers parking garage again has prevented a decision on the project.

The $15 million, 834-car garage that would provide parking for the new Lee County Justice Center came up Monday night for the second time this month at a Fort Myers City Council meeting. And once again, after about a half-hour of debate, city and county officials decided to continue the issue until the lawyers and the transportation experts on both sides can agree on the impact the garage might have on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“We don’t want to wordsmith this ordinance tonight,” Mayor Jim Humphrey said.

None of the council members opposed his suggestion, and the issue will come back for discussion and an expected vote Feb. 4 — a vote that will determine whether the county gets permits from the city to build the garage.

There is a waiting list for spaces at the City of Palms and Main Street garages, making parking an apparent need city officials are trying to address.

But this new garage is a Lee project, and city officials want the county to contribute $4.5 million toward improvements on MLK Boulevard, a major east-west corridor through Fort Myers that is clogged with traffic in the mornings and evenings.

New turn lanes on the two-lane road, city officials have said, could help relieve congestion.

The county’s $4.5 million share would account for 27 percent of the $16 million- plus city officials believe they need to improve MLK.

“There is no way we’re going to solve the problem on MLK,” city engineer Saeed Kazemi said. “So we need to ease it up. We need to work with each other to try to find a solution.”

The money used to improve a road so it can handle the traffic a new development brings is known as concurrency.

And county officials do not believe a parking garage has anything to do with concurrency.

“There’s magic to those words we put in ordinances,” County Attorney David Owen said. “A parking garage does not generate trips.”

That’s a Lee policy from which county officials apparently will not budge, even though a consultant they hired has warned that the garage would make traffic worse on MLK. Michael Spitz of McMahan Transportation Engineers and Planners has twice told city planners that the garage is a concurrency issue, according to city records of planning board meetings.

“That’s why the county shouldn’t be able to come in here and do what they want,” City Attorney Grant Alley said.

County officials can’t — at least they can’t build the garage without a city permit, and they would have to continue using the lots they lease on Liberty Street and a shuttle for jurors, visitors and employees of the justice center.

Jim Lavender, the county’s public works director, asked the council to consider issuing the permit, and then construction on the garage could start.

Originally posted on December 18, 2007construction on the garage started next January, Lavender later said, it would be ready by the end of the year, about the same time the justice center is scheduled to open.

City leaders just were not willing to take the risk that an agreement might not be in place to deal with potential impacts to MLK while the county gets permission to build.
Councilman Mike Flanders, who represents the downtown area, believes an agreement will be ready for a vote come February.

“I’m confident we’ll have language drafted close enough that we’ll adopt some version.”

Lavender remained skeptical.

“That’s hard to predict,” he said.

Money quote: “There’s magic to those words we put in ordinances,” County Attorney David Owen said.

It seems that this article illustrates that impact fees are good for the goose, but the county believes they are not good for the gander.!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Planning Tax

Here is a research/position paper by Randel O'Toole from the Cato Institute on "The Planning Tax", (The Case against Regional Growth-Management Planning) about whether Regional Planning was one of the exacerbating causes of our resent nation housing problems.