BikeWalkLee's mission is to promote complete streets and livable communities. Today's commentary in News-Press focuses on what it means for our communities to be walkable, bikeable, and livable. This is key to the quality of life for our citizens. "This is not a partisan issue...We all seek a good and healthful way of life no matter how we vote." Kudos to Charlotte Newton for her thoughtful commentary. What has been happening to the quality of life in your community? Is your area safer or more dangerous than it used to be for walking and biking? Let your elected officials know you care about having walkable, bikeable, and livable communities.
Feb. 17, 2019
Lee County is growing so fast, and we are losing the quality of life
By Charlotte Newton, Guest contributor
Rampant development is increasing traffic and impacting our schools. Lee Health tries, but can’t seem to keep up with our growing population, resources for early childhood learning are limited, and there is minimal funding for mental health treatment. Clean water appears to be a thing of the past. Increasingly, Lee County is becoming unlivable.
So how do you define livability? According to AARP, “a livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and offers supportive community features and services.” When you bike on our roads, do you feel safe? Can you walk to your local Publix without having to dodge cars? When you take your child to the school bus stop, are there sidewalks, lighting? How long do you have to wait to see a doctor, either at the local emergency room or at a medical office? And how long does it take you to travel the Cape Coral Bridge to get home after a tiring workday?
More: We need to expand roadways in Lee County to offset population growth: your say
The fact is that Lee is growing so fast, we are losing the quality of life we have enjoyed and until we get the situation under control, it is not going to get any better.
This is not a partisan issue; it doesn’t matter one’s political party. We all seek a good and healthful way of life no matter how we vote.
Nobody is calling for a halt to development, which is an important part of our economy. But unfortunately, development is the tail wagging the dog and negatively impacting our quality of life in so many ways. For example, in Lee, we have a plan called Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) which originally was aimed at controlling overdevelopment in southeast Lee County due to the potential for wetlands destruction and the demands on our water resources from increased housing density. Time and again, the DR/GR plan is either simply ignored or cast aside by those charged with county zoning.
Building more roads just invites more cars. Our population is aging and our roads are jammed to capacity. We need a viable bus network that covers the entire county and offers those who cannot or do not want to drive alternatives to getting around.
We also can no longer wait for our county leaders to act on the blue-green algae in our waterways. It’s still there – we just can’t see it. The governor’s water quality proposals are welcomed; however, they will take years to implement.
Our county leaders are turning a blind eye to taking action here, now. The economy is one reason to act, but let’s also prioritize the health and recreational effects on our year-round residents.
Third, a livable community is one that invites its citizens out – out biking, out walking and hiking, out enjoying public gatherings. With so many gated communities, it’s a difficult challenge but one from which we should not shy away. Cape Coral has built a network of bike paths and is developing a system of parks.
The rest of Lee County should follow suit by requiring developers to build these amenities for all our citizens, not just those who buy houses inside their gates.
Our concerns are not new and have been voiced by others over the years. But no matter how many speak up, nothing seems to change – or slow down. Perhaps the answer is to remind our county officials that listening to those they represent – rather than those who donate to their campaigns – is critical to staying in office.
Charlotte Newton is a citizen member of The News-Press Editorial Board.