Access to North Fort Myers Lagoon for non-residents part of the development
Brightwater by Metro, an ambitious residential community in North Fort Myers, will provide limited paid public access to a five-acre lagoon originally planned as a water amenity for homebuyers.
The planned public access for the lagoon was revealed during a commission zoning hearing to consider increasing the number of units from the 1,275 units approved in 2004 to 1,475 homes. The additional units were made possible through changes to the county’s land use plan.
The owners of Brightwater, formerly known as Stoneybrook North, have agreed to stipulate that 590 homes, representing 40% of the community, will be senior housing.
The developer’s lawyer, Steven Hartsell, said providing housing for the over-55 community would mean less traffic on internal roads.
“It’s well established that senior housing has lower travel generation rates,” Hartsell said.
North Fort Myers resident Stephanie Smith told the commission that changes to land use rules for the project are expected to include requirements that seniors’ units be used only by seniors.
“We need to get some landlord documents revised so they’re used before age 55, not used by Airbnb, things of that nature — which would increase traffic,” said Smith, who declared to be 55 years old. “I’m still doing as many traffic moves as before, but when I retire I probably won’t.”
Lagoons are huge swimming pools
County commissioners were also briefed on the developer’s plan for paid public access to the lagoons as it considered developer North Brook Holdings LLC’s proposal to revise its development plan to include more homes and designate certain units for people over 55 years old. .
A recreational lagoon is basically a huge pool for kayaks, pedal boats, paddle boards and water slides. Means of transport could only operate manually – without using motors for power.
Operating without lifeguards on bodies of water averaging eight feet deep, the lagoons are designed as a “swim at your own risk” adventure. So far, no member of the County Board of Commissioners has raised questions about security concerns at such a large, busy and deep facility.
The builder claims the lagoons use less energy than a typical swimming pool, using self-contained methods to treat the water.
Similar facilities are operated by the company at Wesley Chapel in Pasco County with a seven-acre lagoon; on a five-acre site in Wimaurna, east of Tampa Bay, and San Antonio, also in Pasco County. The San Antonio site will house a 15-acre lagoon.
The man-made lagoon is being built at Brightwater’s main entrance on Sunny Page Lane off Pritchett Parkway. Commissioners were told there was nothing in the zoning code that referred to a lagoon, so a county zoning official defined the man-made lake as similar to a golf course.
Originally aimed at people buying a home in the 1,275-unit complex, non-residents would need to make reservations and pay admission at the property, much like making a reservation for a tee time at a golf course. .
Reservations would require the lagoon operator to sell tickets only as long as there are parking spaces available. The commissioners also approved an increase in dedicated lagoon parking to 260 spaces.
Fears in North Fort Myers
Some North Fort Myers residents oppose allowing zoning rule changes for the residential, and now recreational, community.
Commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass took the unusual step of going beyond the findings of the hearing examiner and the evidence presented at a public hearing to speculate on the reasons for the increase in the number of higher units for people over 55.
“Maybe the developer looked at (the age of) 55 not just for traffic reasons. I think it was for marketing reasons,” Pendergrass said. “People are concerned about noise, quality of life, heavy crime. I think they’re looking at marketing it to a different level of customer base where you wouldn’t have those issues.”
The impacts on water management issues from increased parking and construction on the site are also of concern to some residents. Debbie Jackow, president of Concerned Citizens of Bay Shore, is concerned about the flooding.
“The water is coming down from Cecil Webb (Wildlife Management Area) and continues to come down and head south. It’s going through my property. It’s going under culverts,” Jackow said. “It goes into streams, which are already full, and you can’t add water to something that’s already full and that’s what happened five years ago (when Hurricane Irma hit caused flooding).”
Commissioner Mike Greenwell asked what steps could be taken to control traffic at the intersection of Pritchett Parkway and Bayshore Road, which is very close to one of the Interstate 75 entrances.
He noted that a new light approved for Nalle Road may hold a light at Pritchett and Bayshore because the intersection does not meet Florida Department of Transportation criteria for separate traffic lights.
Pendergrass responded that he expects the state to consider adding a traffic light.
“There is no certainty what will happen at this intersection,” he said. “Lee DOT and State DOT are still working, but my suspicions are probably not, but I’m not sure.”