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County Denies Eden Oak Rezoning Request

April 5, 2023

Opponents of Eden Oak won a hard-fought victory today when Lee County’s Board of County Commissioners unanimously denied a request to rezone coastal wetlands for a housing development.

The decision comes after more than seven years of hard work and dedication by members of the community and SCCF who voiced compelling concerns and provided clear scientific evidence of the project’s environmental impacts.

“We commend the Lee County Commission for their leadership in denying this zoning request,” said CEO James Evans. “If approved, this project would have had extensive impacts on mangrove wetlands, water quality, and critical wildlife habitat, and would have put more Lee County residents in harm’s way during the next storm.”

The commissioners denied the applicant’s request for rezoning after numerous members of the community voiced strong opposition to the proposed project off Shell Point Boulevard.

“This is a great day for Lee County,” said Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis. “The commissioners heard the concerns of the community and made the right decision.”

Richard Grosso, the attorney representing SCCF at today’s final hearing, reminded the commissioners of their role.

“It’s only this board that has the responsibility and the legal authority to look at everything. The environment, the hurricanes, the public safety,” said Grosso. “You are the only entity in the world who has the authority to make that decision.”

Residents of properties adjacent to the proposed development who spoke about their experiences in Hurricane Ian included former SCCF Trustee Paul Roth who described the huge difference living by the mangroves made with storm surge.

“We did not leave our home during the storm and therefore we were eyewitnesses to the impacts of raging water driven by 150 mph winds. We watched a 4-foot wall of water surge down Caleb Drive…reaching just to the thresholds of our doors. And with only a slight amount of water trickling in, we escaped with very little damage except in the garage,” said Roth.

“That’s what happened. What did not happen was the surge of water rising up from the Eden Oak tract to the rear of our house. And I’m convinced that the mangrove area setting some feet below our lot saved us from serious flood damage,” he added.

In introducing the motion to dismiss the request, Commissioner Kevin Ruane lauded the role of mangroves.

“The mangroves did exactly what they were intended to do. And with that in mind, my motion is for a complete denial,” said Ruane.

All commissioners voted in favor of the motion. The board’s decision was made with prejudice, which prevents the applicant from resubmitting a similar rezoning application for a year.

“SCCF applauds the commissioners for the courage to support smart growth in Lee County and thanks all members of the community who participated in this process over the last seven years and made their voices heard,” said DePaolis.

For background on the Eden Oak project, please click here. For SCCF’s call to action to thank the county commissioners, click here. Watch the full hearing for amazing testimony from residents who endured Hurricane Ian.


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