The City of Bonita Springs met Wednesday to discuss a wide range of topics from the rezoning process of the old Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club, implementing eagle cams in Bonita Bay to potential new criteria that may be considered during redistricting, which is only done once a decade.
The meeting started on a positive note, with the Lee County Sheriff's Office recognizing the 24 winners of the “Shop with a Cop” 2021 essay contest. This event contest has been held for 28 years, and LCSO has partnered with Bonita Springs schools for the past 10. The winners of the essay contest, all between kindergarten and 5th grade, had the opportunity during December to go visit local businesses with a LCSO deputy and do some shopping.
Council voted unanimously to approve the cooperative agreement between the City of Bonita Springs and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Through this partnership, the SFWMD will help Bonita Springs with multiple concerns such as future flood preparedness. Phil Flood with the SFWMD mentioned potential development of a forecast flood model which would give the city an indication of the amount of rainfall expected, and when the Imperial River might reach its flood limit.
The first reading of a zoning ordinance to allow the 113 acres of what used to be the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club to now become land for residential planned development was brought to the council on Wednesday. Baron Collier Companies (BCC) now owns this land and is requesting the city allows the development of 350 units of homes. In 2019, City Council passed criteria for redevelopment of golf courses for residential uses. However, BCC has requested 14 deviations of the criteria. The development proposal with the deviations created concern in local residents, particularly about the uncertainty of stormwater management and flood mitigation.
During public comment, Bonita Springs resident Barbara Ogle encouraged the council to look into the impacts of development further before pushing to the second hearing. “How can a city go forward with this request when so many questions remain unanswered? Please put this request on hold until more information is forthcoming,” Ogle said.
After multiple more locals taking the microphone to express their opposition to what BCC is wanting to do with the old golf course, Councilman Chris Corrie shared his opinion on the matter.
“I’m hoping we can improve some of the communication on this project and get some of these questions answered before we move on to the second hearing,” Corrie said. “This is not a project likely to start for a long time, I’m not sure why we should race ahead at this point until we know the answers to what the stormwater plan is.”
Once discussion was over, the City Council voted 6-1 to proceed to the second hearing, with Corrie in dissent. The second hearing is planned to be held on Feb. 2.
Implementing an eagle cam in Bonita Springs has been considered for over a year, and Councilman Corrie asked for approval for the community of Bonita Bay to make the first steps in this project. There are two eagles nests in Bonita Bay along Spring Creek.
The project would cost a one-time fee of around $55,000 with an annual fee of around $2500. Corrie expressed potential for Bonita Bay residents to donate to this project, since many of the residents are interested in the nests. This approval would not confirm any costs by the city, it would only give Bonita Bay the opportunity to start the process.
Councilwoman Laura Carr suggested waiting to approve the idea until Bonita Bay expresses their willingness to contribute monetary funds towards the eagle cams, since Bonita Bay is a gated community and non-residents will not be able to see the nests in person. Councilwoman Amy Quaremba disagreed, saying that the nests being in Bonita Bay is better than being in a public space.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity and it’s a positive that it’s a gated community because you won’t have all these visitors harassing the eagles,” Quaremba said. “You want it to be secluded and where there is control over it.” Council voted 6-1 in approval, with Councilwoman Carr in dissent.
Pickleball players who come to the Bonita Springs YMCA will see an increase in walk-on costs from $4 to $6 starting Feb. 1 due to an increase in labor and maintenance costs. Due to the high volume of players, the YMCA is planning to resurface their pickleball courts over the summer, a $20,000 project. Council voted unanimously in support for this increase.
The city has initiated their redistricting process, and City Manager Arleen Hunter mentioned the possibility of using ‘potential growth’ as a criteria for the new district maps. The next step in the redistricting process is for the city to hold a public workshop to show the residents alternative maps based on different criteria and to get feedback on which measuring threshold should be considered.
Councilman Jesse Purdon expressed interest in redistricting based on projected growth in the city. “We only do this every decade, and the point is to get this as equal as possible, if we know what’s on the books it’s the most clear and transparent way, we can plan moving forward,” Purdon said. “If we put those numbers in there, it’s the most honest reflection of what we as a city are doing.”
The next City Council meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m., on Feb. 2 at City Hall Council Chambers.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Bonita City Council: Rezoning concerns, new eagle cams, redistricting