Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lee County Advisory Committees complete action on two more New Horizon 2035 Lee Plan elements

Last week important progress was made on the County's goal of revising its growth management plans to bring the vision of a "Livable Lee" to reality.  Both the Community Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) and the Local Planning Agency (LPA) reviewed and made recommendations on two key elements:
  1. Community Safety and Well-being
  2. Communities
Both the CSAC and the LPA recommended accepting the changes (from the 2012 draft) made by staff in the Community Safety and Well-being element. BikeWalkLee supports the element as written and is pleased with the strengthened focus on public health. The element supports healthier lifestyle choices for residents through urban design, transportation options, and increased recreational opportunities.

Advisory Committees support Tice Historic Community Plan

The Communities element promotes a unified approach to community planning  through general  and community-specific policies.  CSAC recommended that three policies in the Tice Community Plan be changed to reflect the Community Alternative Language as proposed by the Tice Historic Community Planning Group that support the development of a grid network and limits the amount of lanes on Ortiz Avenue.   (click here to see CSAC's recommendations).  Though the LPA did not recommend the community's language due to its specificity,  the members motion was as follows, ""we recommend to the Commissioners that the Community's desires be met."
Potential vision for Ortiz North of Ballard
At both the CSAC and LPA meetings, Dr. Margaret Banyan presented the Tice Historic Community Planning (THCP) group's  comments, which based its vision on extensive public participation, research, and analysis of ways to accommodate community and county-wide traffic needs. The community's request is based on several key factors:  

  • The THCP has provided significant data and analysis to show that the "Community Alternative Language" to limit the width of Ortiz and expand the street network;

  • It supports a systematic and logical approach to managing traffic by closing gaps in the grid network .  THCP's approach on Ortiz was recognized by Billy Hattaway, District 1 FDOT Secretary in July 2013 as having quote, "the greatest potential to reduce travel delay and improve safety for all users";

  • It manages traffic congestion and circulation more efficiently than the LDOT widening proposal; 
  • It eliminates the LOS 'need' to widen Ortiz by accommodating traffic throughout the community, rather than through road widening - this was confirmed by Lee DOT staff;
  • It manages traffic flow by using roundabouts instead of traffic lights; 
  • It provides a safer community by providing fire department access to the southern portion of the community - community language supported by fire department; 
  • It provides for a safer walking and biking environment by maintaining slower speeds and a more narrow street 'footprint';
  • It lowers costs associated with construction and long term maintenance; 
  • It lowers costs associated with storm water treatment; and 
  • It enhances the community's property value and tourist potential by incorporating a natural area consistent with the MPO Bike/Ped Master Plan.
    Affected Section of Ortiz

BikeWalkLee's representative, Darla Letourneau spoke in support of the recommendations by the CSAC; and in strong support of the Tice Historic Planning Panel's recommendations at Monday's LPA meeting. 

Letourneau notes that for the past three years, BikeWalkLee has steadfastly supported the recommendations of the Tice community to redesign the Ortiz Avenue road project north of Ballard as a two-lane with a turn lane/median with other complete street features.

She further pointed out that Tice has one of the highest transit riderships in Lee County, as well as some of the highest numbers of trips made by biking and walking.  So focusing on how to make the neighborhood safer and more accessible for these walkers, bikers, and transit users is important.

Safety for pedestrians and cyclists is a major concern: with Florida being the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians and cyclists and within Florida, Lee County is one of the top 10 most dangerous area, and last year we had a record number of pedestrian fatalities (25).  And one of the hot spot areas is in the Tice community.

Last May the Tice community was the focus of an exciting 2-day effort for citizens in the community to participate and give feedback on safer walking, biking, transit access and neighborhood revitalization. (thru grant from Project for Public Spaces)  Side by side with the residents were state and local staff and officials, experiencing firsthand the safety hazards faced by residents.

The complete streets design for the one-mile section of Ortiz is focused on making this community safer for all road users.

Not only is it safer, this road design will save the county money--both in the short term and long-term.  It's truly a win-win for the county and its citizens.

Letourneau stated that the community has done an exemplary job both in terms of the quality of its community engagement and the quality of the research that went into the plan and the quality of the final plan.  The residents of Tice should be very proud of what they've accomplished.  She urged the  County to do its part and adopt the community's plan as part of the Horizon 2035 Plan update.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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