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Guest opinion: Pledge of allegiance to the Republic of the United Islands?
May 19, 2017

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Our Islands are unique and have a character that is like no other place in Florida. We are different from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Alva, Lehigh Acres, Estero and Bonita. Those are all great municipalities, but we are not like them. We have an independence that allows us to do things not allowed in other communities.

We paint our buildings outrageous colors. We park our boats and RVs on our driveways. We have peacocks in the trees, and cats in our shopping center. We have golf carts on the streets.

Our home and building designs do not all look the same, and we celebrate their variety.

Commercial fishing and agriculture are integrated into our landscape. There are nature preserves with hiking trails through the woods and paddling trails through the mangroves. We are active water people, not passive beach slugs. The quality of our waters for fishing, swimming and boating is critical to us.

We have a coastal rural atmosphere that is our biggest asset. It is our tropical "old Florida" brand. It's the reason people come here to visit and make their homes here. It is a resource that maintains and builds our property values.

In the past we have been able to protect and maintain our identity with overlays of the Lee County Land Use Plan. Both the "Pine Island Plan" and the "Matlacha Plan" have been successful accomplishments by our communities. Now, we have threats to our island way of life.

Cape Coral is proceeding with development in our territory with no regard for our values.

They have rejected our efforts to restore the stormwater treatment function of the North Spreader Canal. They rejected our request that they return to their 2007 design for larger boat locks to handle the necessary boat traffic and improve the water quality.

Developers continue to push against our rural subdivision plan. They need to be educated that the values are higher for large "Heartland" lots, and the infrastructure costs are lower. Acreage with a natural rural environment is becoming very desirable, and is more marketable.

Our cherished building height restrictions are only as good as long as the present administration is in office.

We cannot sue against every present and future threat to our values. Sometime, now or in the future, we will be forced to incorporate into our own municipality. We have started investigating that process. An Initial Financial Feasibility Study has been done, and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Analysis has been done. These studies were based on only a small local government being formed. "Government lite" is being proposed. A seven-member elected council, a manager and support staff and some rented office space is all that is needed for our own self-determination.

All the present, great services provided by Lee County would be continued. We are not going to create our own departments such as highway, sheriff, schools, library, parks, etc. We would reimburse Lee County the cost of those services. The difference between the cost of those services, and the total revenue received by our municipality, would cover the cost of our small government.

People keep asking how can you do this with no increase in taxes. Here's a conservative example from the financial feasibility study for the second year of the middle case scenario. The total tax revenues shown are what we pay to Lee County now. Those funds would now go directly to our local government instead of Lee County.

Middle case scenario, second year:

Total tax revenue collected - $3,084,324.

Less our local government: Council, manager, staff, office, etc. - $1,499,289.

Less other government expenses - $891,411.

Equals second year reserve - $693,624.

With a first year reserve of $801,577, the total rainy day reserve equals $1,495,201. That total rainy day reserve would build up to $3,848,724. at the end of five years.

The greater Pine Island Civic Association has decided to proceed further with investigating incorporation. We are preparing a mailer to be sent to all the registered voters within the territory of incorporation. We need to poll the will of the people of the individual communities.

Should we proceed to the next step of incorporation?

That step would be to create a municipal "charter." A charter is a legal document that defines the purpose and goals of the municipality. In it, we would draft language to preserve our unique environment. We would also define at length our purpose to be a small government with no tax increases. And we would declare our goal to have representation for all our community residents.

Being an islander is more than having your own government; it's an attitude to be carried and maintained. Your island attitude will decide how you vote now and in the future. Islanders, will you declare your independence from outside forces, and claim the power to defend our values by electing our own island representatives?

- Roger Wood is president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association

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