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APPROVED: Lee County green-lights sewer connection for Alva housing development

Heated residents push back on Neal Communities plan
Posted at 9:36 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 21:36:28-05

ALVA, Fla. — Lee County Commissioners gave the green light - a five to zero unanimous vote - to build a sewer connection to planned Neal Communities development in Alva. The developers claim sewer service is better for the environment and will allow more housing to be built, but people against the project think more buildings would only bring more problems.

The concept of 'smart growth' dominated the discussions at the commissioner meeting in Downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday. Members of ‘Alva Strong’, a group against the development, came to the meeting in numbers with plenty to say. James Kennedy emphasized their viewpoint, saying, “It’s not an anti-development stance - it's a pro-smart growth stance." He further expressed concerns about the impact on the environment and resources.

Alva Strong says more traffic would come through North River Road - where the project is planned - and claim this could slow down fire and EMS response times. With the plan to run the sewer line under the Caloosahatchee, they say they’re concerned about sewage spill in the river if the pipe gets damaged. However, Neal Communities say they believe avoiding septic systems is better for the environment.

During the meeting, the developers emphasized, "Connecting to Lee County water and sewer will be beneficial for natural resources in the area. It better protects the aquifers as opposed to 788 individual septic systems." Neal Properties highlighted that the sewer lines would enable the building of approximately 1,100 homes, an increase from the 800 homes possible with septic systems.

Neal Properties also reiterated their commitment to maintaining the rural charm of Alva, saying their 'cluster development' approach will preserve a significant portion of open space and upland habitat. They stated, "The Olga Plan, the Alva Plan, the Northeast Lee County Plan, all encourage clustered development which is exactly what's being proposed here."

Post-meeting, Grant Fichter, an Alva resident who’s against this, shared his perspective of striking a balance. "We want to have economic development, we want to have smart growth, we want to keep our economy moving - we can do that and still balance the good and the quality of life of our current citizens and those that are coming to our area," he said.