Miromar Outlets looking for amendment to Lee County's LED light code

Miromar Outlet’s plan to use LED signs in its parking lot shone a light on confusion in Lee County’s development standards.

The Estero section of the Land Development Code prohibited LED signs. But it also said exceptions could be made if certain steps were followed.

However, when Miromar representatives met with county officials to do discuss their plans, the county’s legal staff was split on whether or not exceptions could be made for signs.

“It says in the regulation that you can have a variance or deviation,” said Neale Montgomery, legal counsel for Miromar. “I think it’s clear, but it doesn’t really matter what I think.”

What was clear was that the developers would request an amendment to the code clarifying that applicants could at least apply for a deviation.

And they hoped that the amendment could be fast-tracked with other amendments in January instead of waiting for the regular biennial round of amendments in June.

Language was developed and a letter of support was generated by the Estero Planning Panel, which wrote the code’s Estero section.

“We specifically wrote a provision that said you can deviate from the codes as long as you come in with a rendering,” said Dan DeLisi, a member of the panel. “If someone can show us something different but better, we’re obviously supportive of that.”

It seemed like a simple request to the applicants and Estero planners — at least allow developers to apply for a deviation and then each request can stand on its own merits.

Lee County attorney Michael Jacob said the code amendment wouldn’t change anything.

“We’re just over-specifying,” he said.

Still, when Commissioner Frank Mann raised the suggestion to amend the code at Tuesday’s board meeting, it brought a barrage of comments questioning the idea.

Commissioner Ray Judah said he didn’t want Lee County’s beauty to be marred by a bunch of flashing LED signs.

Commissioner Tammy Hall said she wasn’t sure what was being asked for and why the request was coming through a commissioner.

“They want to put the sign inside the shopping center parking lot,” Mann said. “We are not moving forward here on anything that approves that. We are allowing the staff to create the language that could be used to entertain that after it went through all the steps.”

Still the request was sent back to staff to clarify points and bring it back next week.

In other news, the county is preparing to respond to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after it assigned responsibility for cleaning up excess nitrogen in Lee County waterways.

Too much nitrogen can lead to algal blooms and fish kills and the state has been rolling out new standards to which governments must comply.

The county has until early December to send its comments. The state in June or July will then issue a plan for removing the nitrogen.

Though the science is still being debated, Roland Ottolini, director of Lee County’s Division of Natural Resources, said the county can begin some improvements.

“I don’t think we’re at risk of doing too much too soon,” he said.

He estimated costs of what will be a 15-year clean-up plan to be well above $100 million.

Ottolini said the technology has yet to be developed to efficiently and cost-effectively remove excess nitrogen from the water.

Additionally, the county will have to determine the sources of pollutants and ways to cover the costs, including grants and tax dollars.

Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

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