February 2022 Live Monthly Meeting
Highlights of the 211th ECCL Membership Meeting
February 11, 2022
President Jim Gilmartin welcomed the attendees. Jim then introduced Vice Mayor Jon McLain as the first speaker of the morning meeting.
Jon McLain talked about the upcoming Estero 7th Anniversary Celebration on March 5 at 11:00 a.m. Billy Dean & Dawn, one of Southwest Florida’s most versatile musical groups, will be performing pop, rock, Broadway, jazz, and country between 11 a.m. and 12 noon. The event will be held at the Estero Park & Recreation Center.
John explained that there would be something for everyone, including face painting, animal balloons, and a bounce house for children. A variety of local food trucks will be on-site for those wishing to purchase food.
The party starts at 11 a.m. with time for eating, mingling, dancing to the music and children’s activities. From 12 – 12:30 a.m., there will be a short recognition of Estero’s community leaders. Then, it is time for more food, entertainment, and dancing! Note the date and time in your diary now!! Please do not miss the fun.
Finally, Jon talked about the Village Council elections in March 2023, and three of the four candidates are “terming” out. He urged residents to consider running for office. He also mentioned that the 2020 National Census and any annexation to the east might affect the seven currently defined Village districts.
The next speaker was Don Scott, Executive Director, Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The MPO is the County’s transportation partnership responsible for transportation planning all of Lee County. The MPO’s mission is “to provide leadership and promote regional mobility, encourage a positive investment climate and foster sustainable development sensitive to community and natural resources.”
Don explained the inner workings of the organization and the five advisory committees that provide input to the MPO Board. While the MPO focuses on Federal and State funding, they list all funds’ sources (County, Municipality, and Developer). The MPO Transportation Plan identifies the way projects are funded, the budgeting process, and planning. The MPO’s budget includes funding for safety outreach activities to educate and push for Improved safety and user behavior to help reduce fatalities, injuries, and crashes. Currently, the MPO is performing a “Rails to Trails” study funded with state “Sun Trail” funds. Don encouraged the attendees to get involved in the process, attend meetings, and sign up for e-mail news and meeting info.
A question was asked about the amount of federal gas tax funding and whether the MPO saw those funds declining due to electric vehicles? Short term, no; long term, yes. Don explained some states are enacting an electric car tax to help pay for transportation improvements. Florida has not passed such a tax.
An attendee asked if there is any consideration to evaluating ferries to/from the Estero Area and Lovers Key State Park, Ft Myers Beach, Sanibel Island, etc. The short answer is that financial feasibility does not exist.
Another question asked about the 2019 Estero Bike/Ped Master Plan and when the MPO would expect the plan to be updated. Don stated the MPO would be working on an update with the Village.
Jim Gilmartin then shared several ECCL developments and initiatives:
- Recently the ECCL was classified a 501 (c)3 charitable organization by the IRS because the organization provides information to Greater Estero residents about issues that could positively or negatively impact the quality of life in Greater Estero.
Previously, the ECCL operated as a 501(c)4 organization with the expanded ability for political lobbying, and contributions were not tax-deductible. With the 501c3 classification, we have the option of soliciting tax-deductible contributions to support our efforts directly. We will also be able to apply for special purpose grants.
Finally, the 501c3 classification helps us to continue our focus on education and advocacy to improve the environment, safety, transportation, health, education, and culture and recreation. The change helps us achieve our aspiration of providing more responsive services to assure the Greater Estero Area is the best place in southwest FL to visit, live, work, invest, and play.
- The “Greater Estero Virtual Information Center” (GEEVIC) website, the brainchild of the ECCL and others, is a national, international, and local investor/customer, visitor, resident, and business focus website. It is being developed by a task force led by Barry Freedman and includes the ECCL, Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce, and others.
GEVIC’s purpose is to provide easy access to the Greater Estero area’s culture, including but not limited to housing, health care, education, schools, restaurants, retail, governance, transportation, lodging, attractions, things to do, social and other events, etc. It is anticipated that GEEVIC will contribute significantly to strengthening the economic position of the Greater Estero area.
We presented the GEVIC to the Village Council on February 2 and requested seed funding for the website. Questions were asked and comment made by the Council members. We will respond shortly and schedule another presentation.
- A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by our actions. The Village of Estero currently has a campaign encouraging residents to reduce the generation of greenhouse gasses under their control.
But opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint exist for the Village to act upon in its official capacity. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is a need to drastically reduce emissions to decrease and prevent the worsening effects of extreme weather patterns, economic decline, and increased resource scarcity.
One of the most significant benefits of reducing greenhouse gases is that it would decrease severe weather patterns the number of deaths related to air pollution and help ease pressure on healthcare systems. Warmer temperatures are also intrinsically related to the water quality issues critical to our local economy and quality of life.
To that end, the ECCL has offered the Village its resources, at no cost, to conduct research identifying ways to reduce the Village’s carbon footprint and offer mitigation and reduction options for consideration. We will be supported by scientific data, climate warming experts, and local municipalities that have begun mitigation efforts. Stay tuned.
- Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) told Troyer Mining that their permit application to discharge dredged or fill material to construct and operate a limestone, sand, and fill dirt mine and processing facility did not comply with the Navigable Waters Protection rule.
The ECCL sent a letter to the FEPA resolutely supporting requests for a public hearing to hear all aspects relating to the application. There are several potential concerns that we feel requires clarification and assessment. These include:
- The location of the proposed mine is in an environmentally sensitive area of Lee County’s Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) area.
- The impact on nearby farmlands, wetland areas, and water quality requires careful examination.
- Working with the Calusa Waterkeeper, the ECCL seeks residential communities willing to execute ways to reduce nitrogen, phosphate, and other nutrients entering our waterways. If your community is interested in learning more or participating in the effort, please contact me.
We have developed closer relationships with FGCU. We will promote several of their programs, including the Service-Learning program and placing student interns in Greater Estero Organizations. More about the efforts will be available shortly.
- We offer opportunities to contribute to maintaining and improving the quality of life in Estero and surrounding communities. We are seeking volunteers for:
- Eccl Member Information Manager
- Executive Assistant to the Eccl President
- Sewer Conversion Committee
- Environmental Health Committee Chairperson
- Visit https://esterotoday.com/volunteer/ for details.
- Finally, there are several upcoming events of note that you should attend, including:
- FGCU 25th Anniversary Campus Tomorrow beginning at 9:00 a.m.
- As Vice Mayor McLain explained, Estero Village 7th Anniversary is 11 a.m. 2 p.m., Saturday, March 5, at Estero Community Park
- Estero Forever Foundation Gala, March 31
- Estero Fest is Saturday, April 2, 2022, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Estero Community Park, and it is free
Jim acknowledged several audience participants, including Jon McLain, Estero Village Vice-Mayor, Larry Fiesel, Estero Village Councilor, Frank Moser, and Linda Tecco-Roach from the ECCL’s Board of Directors.
Mark Novitski, Chief Operating Officer, listed some upcoming speakers and the probability of our October 2022 meeting being held at the FGCU Water School. He also mentioned that our Advocacy Councils are compiling timelines for various Villages Capital Improvement (CIP) activities: Environmental – septic to sewer conversion; Transportation and Safety – Road improvements and Bike/Ped improvements.
Mark mentioned the upcoming Estero High School joint with Estero Historical Society and Estero Chamber Essay and Scholarships, and they need judges and attendees at the presentation ceremonies in May 2022. He also mentioned that the 4th and 7th-grade essay contests need our help and support.
Allan Bowditch, Chief Communications Officer, mentioned the increase in Arts and Cultural activities stemming from Gulfshore Opera becoming established in Estero. He discussed the excellent talent that provides a wide range of concerts at the Bower School of Music & the Arts in the beautiful and acoustically acclaimed U Tobe Concert Hall. (Visit www.GulfshoreOpera.org and www.fgcu.edu/bsma for more details of their current programs and information)
The next ECCL Monthly Meeting will be held at the Recreational Center Estero on March 11 at 10 a.m.