Sunday, December 18, 2011
BikeWalkLee’s report from Lee County Planning Agency (LPA) meeting Dec. 16, 2011
Report by Ann Pierce, BWL
At the latest LPA meeting, four new position papers were discussed as part of the ongoing process to review and update the County's comprehensive plan - Horizon 2035 Lee Plan.
The first paper summarized an extensive,national market research report, based on characteristics of the five generational categories represented here in Lee County. This research gave emphasis to each of two other papers addressing I-75 Interchanged Developments and Mixed-Use Development.
Florida and its economy having depended upon a steady influx of newcomers, now finds itself at a point where well-researched, intelligent, critical decisions must be made for its future economic viability. Fully 88% of surveyed baby boomers say they do not plan to relocate, but will instead age in place. Further, for those who do relocate to warmer climes, Florida is no longer the first choice. It concludes that most of the retiring boomers who will be here in 2035 are already living here. Findings also indicate that generations X and Y are quite unlikely to move far from where they've grown up. County planning could best be focused on accommodating the large number of existing retirees, while seeking to retain younger generations, specifically the many thousands graduating from FGCU.
Both generations X and Y,expressing far less interest in automobile ownership or operation than previous generations, had a marked preferences for bicycling, walking, urban experiences and interface with the natural environment. Baby boomers, however, desiring to maintain functional mobility and independence,appear to fully intend to continue driving. But, Federal Highway safety data presents a chilling forecast with such a scenario. These drivers, as they age, are much more likely to be involved in multi-vehicle and fatal crashes, with predictions that 25% of fatal accidents will be caused by these older drivers.
What does this mean for Lee County? That creative visioning and a holistic coordination in land use and transportation planning will be required. A decreased interest in suburban style single-family homes and the accompanying auto dependency is evident. There is an expressed increase in higher density, mixed-use centers that provide access to living, work, health care, educational and shopping opportunities, accommodated by a variety safe transportation modes. Such developments would help to maintain the surrounding natural environments valued by the younger generations. For retirees, who may be forced, by regulation or insurance rates, to give up driving sooner than anticipated, denser mixed-use living can offer freedom of mobility without an automobile, while extensions of transit and bike/ped facilities will need to be made throughout existing areas of development.
Examining the nine current, grade-separated I-75 interchanges may offer locations for these future higher density, transit oriented development (TOD) centers to develop. With low density accommodations for the through-traveler closest to the interstate, and transit stations with bike/ped oriented, mixed-use, high-density development just beyond.
An assessment of future development in Lehigh Acres was the subject of the final paper. Here again, community representatives and planning staff are searching for ways to develop a few higher density commercial nodes within the area. Alternative forms of transportation in and around Lehigh and connecting it to the rest of the County will remain of paramount importance.
It was evident that adjusting our past course of transportation and land use planning and development will take active participation from all sectors of our community. There will be considerable inertia to overcome within a milieu of economic uncertainty. Yet, it is clear we can no longer afford to continue with more of the same. A few forward thinking communities around the country have already begun to establish comprehensive Aging in Place Action Plans, preparing themselves logistically, socially and economically for the wave of the aging baby boom generation.