Friday, January 24, 2014

BikeWalkLee Thanks Outgoing and Welcomes Incoming LPA Members

BikeWalkLee thanks the departing LPA members and welcomes the newly appointed members;  provides some background on the LPA's role; and outlines the work ahead to finalize the New Horizon 2035 Plan in the next few months.

BikeWalkLee would like to thank the 2013 Local Planning Agency (LPA) board members (remaining - Jim Green, Noel Andress, Mitch Hutchcraft; leaving - Wayne Daltry, Roger Strelow, Ann Pierce, Steve Brodkin) for their commitment of enormous amounts of time and energy spent last year to better Lee County’s future.  We also welcome the four new members appointed for 2014 (David Mulicka, Dennis Church, Rick Joyce, James Ink). 

As the LPA begins its 2014 work, it might be helpful to provide our readers with some background about what the role of the LPA is and is not.  Members of the LPA have unique roles as defined by statute, legal precedent, and guidance documents. As outlined in the Florida Planning Officials Handbook, elected officials (e.g., BoCC members) are the policy makers and the LPA members are appointed to work within the policies and ordinances formally adopted by the BoCC.  As the Handbook states (p. IV-2-3), elected officials “are responsive to constituents' interests and subject to election campaigns that encourage attention to immediate concerns rather than to long range problems.  Planning commissioners and boards exist independently to balance this tendency. They do so by emphasizing the long range interests of the community."

According to the Handbook (p. IV-3) it is the BoCC's responsibility to appoint the members of the LPA and to create a capable LPA with a balance of experience and expertise...."However, the Council [i.e., BoCC] then needs to leave the Board [i.e., LPA] to do its job." "They [LPA members] work within already established policy and do not change policy based on public comment....It is their role to apply the given is not their role to change what is or is not permitted." The Handbook (p. IV-4) goes on to say, "If the Board [i.e., LPA] tries to set policy or the Council [i.e., BoCC] tries to interfere with the application of the ordinance or fails to value the technical advice of the Board [i.e., LPA], confusion and trouble will follow."

LPA members are charged with serving the citizens of Lee County by upholding those citizen’s expressed wishes as embodied in the Comprehensive Plan. The LPA is to maintain public trust in being the ‘keeper’ of the adopted Comprehensive Plan, which in the state of Florida, is law.  As the protectors of the Comprehensive Plan - the legal document containing the culmination of input elicited from thousands of individuals and organizations within the County- the LPA is  obligated to assess all new amendment and change requests to their degree of compliance with the existing Plan, and make their recommendations to the BoCC accordingly. They are also obligated to keep this Plan up-to-date through  periodic Evaluation and Appraisal Review (EAR) and  rewrite processes.

Lee County is nearing the end of this updating process and will hopefully produce an exemplary Comprehensive Plan that accurately reflects the voice of its citizens. The 2010-11 EAR process produced an award-winning document distilling those many citizen voices into clear and unambiguous goals to bring the vision of a Livable Lee to reality.  These goals have now been incorporated into the "Lee Plan: New Horizon 2035", which has been going through extensive committee review, element by element, for two years, with final reviews scheduled to be completed in March 2014.

As expressed in the EAR, the citizens want Lee County to preserve that which makes this a great place to live while working towards a stable and diverse economic future. They want a distinct differentiation of growth patterns, rates and densities within defined urban, suburban and rural areas with pattern-specific transportation choices, safely connecting people to places. And last, they have stated that the unique character of their communities and neighborhoods should be maintained and protected.

It is now the job of this current LPA to ensure that the final document remains true to its origins – a Comprehensive Plan borne of open cooperation, vigorous citizen input and sound long-term vision. 
One of BikeWalkLee's 2014 priorities is for the BoCC to adopt the 2035 Horizon Plan, consistent with the EAR, this year.

Click here to read the 1/3/14 BWL blog: Updated Schedule forNew Horizon 2035 Lee Plan Review, including links to BikeWalkLee's written statements on the land use and transportation elements.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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