Why Every Community and HOA Should Consider Having

a Civic Liaison
or Committee

By Mark Novitski, Consultant to Engage Estero

Planning and Zoning – Village

Planning and Zoning – County


Lee County School District


A lot is happening in Southwest Florida, specifically in the greater Estero area. So, how do you find out what is happening in Estero and the adjoining regions?

Engage Estero’s purpose is “To inform citizens of significant community issues and encourage citizen engagement to impact the quality of life in greater Estero favorably.” The organization provides information about upcoming Village Council and Planning, Zoning, and Design Board meetings in addition to the announcements made by the Village itself.

The organization’s website, www.esterotoday.com, provides updated information on the developments (residential, commercial, roads, bike paths, etc.) and a plethora of other locally important information. Articles are sent to our email database of almost 10,000 people, and local media also feature essential information in their publications.

But more can be done to keep citizens updated on what could affect the future of Estero and the surrounding area.

Planning and Zoning

Municipal Level – Planning and Zoning

Village of Estero

The Estero Village Council set the Estero property tax rate and the impact fee (roads and parks) rate. This information is discussed and passed as ordinances at Village Council meetings. It would be helpful if a designated person or committee operating within the various communities/HOAs knew of the meetings and plans to share the information with their HOA Board and residents. Estero Village Council Meetings dates and times can be found at https://estero-fl.gov/meetings/.

Zoning – what can be developed on a particular parcel of land – in Estero is determined by the Estero land Development Code (https://estero-fl.gov/land-development-code/). The Village Council adopted the Village’s new Land Development Code on January 27, 2021.  The code also includes the Official Zoning Map. While some parcels were zoned before the incorporation of Estero in 2014, developers still must go through the Village Planning, Zoning, and Design Review (PZ&DR) Board.

This is where the developer submits their plans and receives public input. However, residents need to be aware that land rights established in the 80s in Lee County, going way back before the mixed-use designations in the 2010s, make it difficult to control the number of units being built.  Florida has robust property rights laws, among the strongest in the nation. Once something is given, it can’t be taken away without replacement value.  It doesn’t matter when Estero was incorporated; the Village inherited the land use rights granted before incorporation.

But, if a particular parcel is affecting your community, it is essential that an individual, e.g., a HOA Civic Liaison, needs to be aware of the situation to share the information with the HOA Board and the community. That individual or committee needs to attend the appropriate Planning, Zoning, and Design Board (PZDB) meeting. Meeting dates are available at https://estero-fl.gov/events/.

In answer to some recent questions posed by Engage Estero and the opinions voiced at recent PZDB meetings, citizens of Estero believe they need an opportunity to make comments at an early stage in the development planning process.

92% of residents said “Yes,” Engage Estero should formally request that the Village require developers to present their plans to a nonbinding committee (open to the public) before formally presenting projects to the Planning, Zoning, and Design Board. Engage Estero has raised this issue with the Village Management, and we are hoping to see this process regularly adopted. At present, it appears that while used, early opportunities for the public to review developments are “hit and miss.”

The Village Planning staff reviews the developer submittal and provides comments and conditions. The PZ&DR Board also reviews the developer submittal and presentation and asks questions. If the Staff and the PZ&DR Board approve the developer submittal, an agenda item is placed on the Village Council agenda.

Again, if the parcel affects your community, the HOA Civic Liaison must be aware and share the information with the HOA Board and the community. That individual or committee needs to attend the PZ&DR Board meeting. Meeting dates are available as indicated previously at https://estero-fl.gov/events/

County Level – Planning and Zoning

Lee County

The Lee County Local Planning Agency (LPA) is a 7-member resident advisory board whose members are responsible for proposing and reviewing changes to the Comprehensive Plan (Lee Plan) and regulations that affect land use. The LPA makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.

The Local Planning Agency website is: https://www.leegov.com/dcd/zoning

“Every piece of property has been given a specific zoning category. Zoning maps can be viewed on the Find My Zoning App and the Lee County Spatial Information System (LeeSpIns) or reviewed at 1500 Monroe St., Fort Myers.  ​Large projects are typically reviewed under the Planned Development process.  A rezoning may be requested if an owner desires to use the property for a use that is not currently allowed. All rezoning must conform with the Lee Plan. An applicant must submit a completed application with the appropriate supplemental requirements and a fee under the fee schedule.

The general process for rezoning is:

  1. Application submitted to Zoning Division​
  2. Staff review and a written recommendation
  3. Hearing Examiner public hearing​
  4. Recommendation forwarded to Board of County Commissioners
  5. Decision at public hearing by Board of County Commissioners​

If your community, property, or business borders unincorporated Lee County, it would be helpful if a HOA Civic Liaison – was aware of these issues and shared the information with the HOA Board and the community.


Municipal Level – Transportation

Village of Estero

The Village Public Works department annually prepares a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and submits the plan (https://estero-fl.gov/cip/) for Village Council approval.

The CIP includes everything from roads, multi-use paths, rails to trails, sidewalks, streetlights, land acquisition, parks and recreation, utility expansion, drainage, signage, and connectivity. More information can be found at https://estero-fl.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Village-Connection-Article.pdf.

Suppose your community has any of the above activities in your area. In that case, a HOA Civic Liaison must be aware and share the information with the HOA Board and the community.

Federal Level – Transportation

United States

While roads in Estero fall under various ownerships and responsibility for operations and expansion, US41 and I 75 are the responsibility of FDOT (https://www.fdot.gov/agencyresources/districts), District 1. 

County Level – Transportation

Lee County

Corkscrew Rd, Ben Hill Griffin, Three Oaks Pkwy, and the eastern (Three Oaks to Ben Hill Griffin) end of Estero Parkway are the responsibility of Lee County Department of Transportation (LDOT) (https://www.leegov.com/dot). They maintain the remaining roads within the Village of Estero, not including those within gated communities (e.g., Broadway, Coconut, Via Coconut). Usually, the Community Development District (CDD) or the HOA maintains the roads, sidewalks, multi-use paths, streetlights, and street signs inside the gated community.

All transportation activity is captured in the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), regardless of who pays for the project.

“The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the County’s transportation partnership responsible for transportation planning in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Unincorporated Lee County.”

“The Lee County MPO Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is the 25-year vision for the community’s transportation needs and expectations. It considers all types of travel and identifies projects that best serve drivers and their passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and people using public transportation.

How and where freight movement occurs through and within the county is also part of the LRTP. Every five years, planners and engineers have brought their expertise to developing the long-range transportation plan. The ideas and opinions from community members participating in public meetings, workshops, and surveys have been essential to creating a successful plan.”

The MPO meeting schedule and committees can be found at https://leempo.com/. HOAs and Communities must know about the meetings and plans to share the information with their community.


County Level – Public Education

Lee County School District

Lastly, it would be worthwhile for the established HOA Civic Liaison person to be aware of the Lee District School Board (https://www.leeschools.net/) meetings and plans to share the information with the HOA Board and the community. The Lee District Schools budget is approaching $3B (yes, billion) and serves over 100k students. The School District is over $.5B in debt, with almost $100M in servicing costs annually.

Their 5-year capital plan includes seven new schools: 1 Elementary, 2 Middle Schools, 1 pre-K-8, and three high schools. New school buildings and furnishing cost between $60M and $100M. Besides limited federal and state funding, our property taxes, impact fees, and half-cent sales tax fund the school district.

With the continual road construction, utility expansion, new housing explosion, and almost 1600 new school-age children coming to Lee County annually, we all need to be informed and stay involved!

Parks and Conservation

Alongside the Village of Estero are Lee County parks and preserves (e.g., Larry Kiker Preserve, Estero Community Park, Gator Hole Preserve, etc.) How these parks and preserves are developed, improved, and operated through the Lee County Parks and Recreation Department (https://www.leegov.com/parks). Within the Parks and Recreation Department, there is also Conservation 20 / 20 (https://www.leegov.com/parks/conservation2020).

It was fortunate for Estero that the BOCC purchased the nearly 4000-acre Edison Farms parcel and renamed it Larry Kiker Preserve in honor of passed BOCC Councilman Kiker. What the Parks & Recreation Department and the BOCC plan to use this preserve for is a concern. See the following link for updates on the meetings. https://www.leegov.com/parks/conservation2020/meetings  

About Us

Be Informed, Get Engaged, and Make an Impact!

Engage Estero is an all-volunteer, nonpolitical, nonprofit Community Engagement Association. We exist to inform citizens of significant community issues and encourage citizen engagement to favorably impact the quality of life in greater Estero.