Bonita Springs and Estero to decide who pays for Coconut Road improvements
A relatively minor change to a 300-unit luxury community brought dozens of frustrated residents to the Bonita Springs city council meeting on Wednesday night to voice a traffic problem on Coconut Road.
Bayview on Estero Bay, which will house up to 300 residential or hotel units at the end of Coconut Road, was approved in 2019.
Developer London Bay Homes wanted to add a 7,500 square foot restaurant, add a few signs and increase the height of one of its buildings. Councilors approved the change.
But residents have come in droves, in person or by email, to oppose the change. No one said the project itself was bad. Instead, they pointed to traffic, including Pelican Landing resident Sheila Phillips.
“The traffic on Coconut Road will be horrible,” she said.
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Coconut Road, which separates Bonita Springs and Estero, is a two-lane street and the only way to enter or exit the proposed development. Several communities are also linked to the road.
The problem isn’t just construction, it’s politics. Estero and Lee County own the road. Bayview, with its estimated impact costs of $ 10.4 million, is located in Bonita Springs.
“What we do with this fee is not a collaborative decision as the impact fee is not project specific,” Bonita Springs advisor Jesse Purdon said via social media. “If Estero wants an interlocal deal to settle the road, that’s fine, so go through the process and make a proposal, which they didn’t.”
Estero Village Council, which met Wednesday morning, said the new development would put Coconut Road to the test and force the village to pay $ 2.6 million or more for road improvements, mostly thanks to the construction of three new roundabouts. There is not enough room to extend the road to four lanes, according to village staff.
“It’s clear, ethically or even professionally, that (Bonita Springs) would view these impacts as part of their cost, and they receive a substantial amount of impact fees, taxes, etc. of their projects, but to date, they have not stepped up and indicated a willingness to participate, ”said city manager Steve Sarkozy on Wednesday morning.
Bonita Springs officials spoke to staff at Estero later that day. At 5:30 p.m. at the Bonita Springs city council meeting, the two governments had discussed the possible problem, said John Dulmer, director of community development.
“We will coordinate with the two (Estero and Lee County) to get things done,” Dulmer said.
Estero needs a specific project in their capital improvement plan before Bonita Springs can get involved in funding the project, Dulmer said, and that hasn’t happened, at least not yet.
Estero advisor Joanne Ribble has asked other advisers to think about pushing construction plans forward.
“The problem here is the timing,” Ribble said. “I would like the board to look at whether we need to fix other issues and move them forward earlier in our (capital improvement plan). “
Ultimately, Bonita Springs City Council will decide whether to help pay for Coconut Road improvements. At Wednesday night’s meeting, city councilors did not directly say whether they would help pay or not. But residents said a deal should be struck, including Roy Hyman, chief executive of Pelican Landing.
“While you do not own the road, you are responsible for the health, safety and well-being of Bonita Springs residents, current and future,” Hyman said.
Thaddeus Mast is a Southern Lee County reporter for the Naples Daily News and The Banner. Support his work by subscribing to our local news organization. Find him on Twitter as @thaddeusmast.