Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lee County Advisory Committees weigh in on transportation projects in the draft 5-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Both the LPA and CSAC reviewed the County's draft CIP last week, and the BoCC will again discuss three road projects at the June 3rd budget workshop.  If you want to share your views with commissioners, this is the week.

As part of the annual budget process, the county develops a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that reflect the County's infrastructure needs, including transportation projects, over a five-year timeframe.  Two committees have responsibility for reviewing the draft CIP and making recommendations to the County Commissioners before it is approved.  The Local Planning Agency (LPA) has the responsibility to determine whether the CIP is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.  The Community Sustainability Committee (CSAC) reviews the CIP in terms of its alignment with the County's sustainability and complete streets objectives.

LPA Recommendations
At the May 20th LPA meeting, the committee heard presentations by Lee County staff and took public comment from several citizens and organizations, including BikeWalkLee, the Tice Historic Planning Committee, and Responsible Growth Management Coalition.  As a result of extensive deliberations, the LPA unanimously approved the following recommendations to the BoCC*.

o   Ortiz: That we ask the Board of County Commissioners to revisit the current plan on Ortiz north of Luckett Road to Hwy 80 to reconsider the recommendations from the community and to work with the community on redesigning that section of the road to satisfy the needs of the community.

o   Alico widening: 

  • That the timing of the Alico Road extension be contingent on the completion of a master plan for the Research and Development Diamond and that it should lead to reallocation of funds as shown in the CIP.

  • The Board of County Commissioners, in the funding for future expansion of Alico east of Treeline, take into account other funding mechanisms than gas tax such as forming an MSTU or other private funding mechanisms to accomplish the widening of that road rather than put that on the tax payer.

o   Estero Blvd. Improvement: that South Estero Boulevard improvements should be moved to the highest priority for funding since that road meets the definition of how the priority should be set in Objective 2.3 in the current Comprehensive Plan

*Note: LPA member Steve Brodkin voted in support of these recommendations, but moved to reopen the vote so he could vote against the overall motion because he felt that the CIP is not consistent with the Lee Plan.  The motion as adopted states that the LPA finds the CIP consistent with the Lee Plan with the following recommendations.

CSAC Recommendations
The CSAC met on May 22nd to consider the draft CIP and heard from staff and the public, including Darla Letourneau representing BikeWalkLee and Margaret Banyan who is a member of the Tice Historic Planning Committee.  Letourneau's presentation  focused on the consistency of the CIP with CSAC's 2012 recommendations (see Attachment 1 in BikeWalkLee's June 2012 memo to the BoCC), and distributed a draft motion for the Committee's consideration.  Due to the lack of a quorum, the motion could not be acted upon and will be delayed until  June 19th. 

 The proposed motion would support the LPA recommendations (see above), and reiterate some of the CSAC 2012 recommendations that were not acted on last year.  In addition, the draft motion includes a request that LeeDOT assess changes to the CIP with respect to planned right of way purchases for those projects that are unlikely to proceed as currently planned, including, Three Oaks Parkway, Ortiz Avenue (SR80 to Luckett), and Homestead 4L/Sunrise--Alabama. 

BoCC Review of CIP focused on three road projects
No budget workshop has been planned for the BoCC to discuss the proposed CIP; however, there was an Management and Planning (M & P) meeting on May 6th for the Board to discuss staff options on how to move forward on three road projects--Estero Blvd. Improvement, Alico widening, and Homestead Rd. widening--given that there were insufficient funds for the current plans and schedules for these three projects.  Here is the link to the staff's paper provided to the Board on 5/2.

BikeWalkLee communicated with Board members by email on May 3rd to reiterate its 2012 recommendations on these three projects:

"As we stated in the attached June 19, 2012 memo and on many other occasions, we believe that the Estero Blvd. improvement project should be the county's top funding priority.  With respect to the Alico Rd. project, we recommended that this project not move forward until after the development of a comprehensive master plan for the Research Diamond area.  Thus, we recommend that the $1.6 million currently budged for 2012-13 for the design phase, as well as the 2013-14 and out year costs, be delayed until such time as that master plan is completed to ensure that the roadway conforms to the envisioned land use."

"Since preparing those recommendations, there is one new development that should be factored into your discussions.  Subsequent to our June 2012 comments, the Board provided $1.2 million in the final CIP for the Lehigh complete streets activity centers study and design work, which we actively supported.  We believe that the outcomes from that study will be needed before you can decide the appropriate next steps and schedule for the Homestead Rd. project that is discussed in Policy Question #2."

At the May 6th M & P meeting, the Board discussed the three projects but failed to provide staff with direction about how to prioritize them or revise their schedules to live within available resources.  Instead, they asked staff to come back to them with alternatives for financing these projects as currently planned.  That follow-up discussion is scheduled to occur at the June 3rd budget workshop.  Check the County website for staff materials that will be sent to the Board in advance. (Generally posted the Friday preceding the Monday workshop.)  Note it's on the Budget Workshop link, not the BoCC agendas or M & P page.

When do citizens get a chance to provide public comment on the CIP?
Except for the public comment opportunities at the LPA and CSAC meetings, there is no forum for public comments before the BoCC until the final budget hearings in September, after the budget decisions have essentially been made.

Although there is not an opportunity to speak at BoCC meetings on these projects, citizens and organizations can always write, call, or meet with elected officials to share their views on these important proposed expenditures, with the next opportunity being before the June 3rd budget workshop.  You can also provide public input at the upcoming CSAC meeting on June 19th.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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