February 10, 2012
20/20 Alva land purchase endorsed by advisory group
By Bill Smith
In a split vote, an advisory board to county commissioners have recommended buying more than 90 acres of conservation land near the Caloosahatchee River in Alva
The purchase of three more parcels for Lee County's 20/20 program have been recommended to Lee County commissioners, including the purchase of more than 90 acres near the Caloosahatchee River in Alva.
The commission will now decide whether to commit $2.659 million from the voter-endorsed 20/20 fund to buy more than 90 acres, including a stretch of shoreline, off Old Olga Road in Alva
Located near Buckingham Trails preserve, the property was bought by a Miami woman two years ago from Bonita Springs real estate agent Barry Denicola and his wife Tori for $3.2 million. The Denicolas had bought the parcel for $1.4 million two years earlier. The land had previously been owned by a Sarasota development company which defaulted on its mortgage during the recession.
Ruby Daniels of Alva, president of the citizens group Alva, Inc. which seeks to protect the ambiance of the rural community, said she was especially pleased that it would mean improved public access to a small beach along the Caloosahatchee.
"When I visit this property I see it for its environmental quality, it is a great opportunity to give the public east of I-75 access to the river for passive recreational uses," Daniels said. "They have a small beach that people already use, but the only way they can access it is by boat; it would be a great asset to the 20/20 program."
It was a close 5-4 vote to recommend that the commission spend 20/20 funds to buy the Alva site.
The four members of the panel who voted against the purchase included chairman Carl Barraco, who heads a public engineering company; Sharail Cluck, an executive with Land Solutions, a Fort Myers real estate firm; Amanda Brock, a land use attorney, and T.J. Cannamela, owner of Buckingham Farms. Most said they considered the price to be too high for conservation land.
"I think it would be great for parks and recreation, but not for 20/20," said Cannamela, echoing the position of Cluck, who also said she did not believe that it is environmentally sensitive land.
The 20/20 fund was created in 1996 through the creation of a 50 cents per thousand dollars valuation tax on property. Voters reaffirmed the program at the November election, with 84 percent of voters voting yes on a referendum question endorsing the continuation of the program.
An eight-acre wedge of land in Sanibel, adjacent to the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, was also recommended for purchase, for $2 million. A private group, Friends of the Ding Darling Refuge, has raised $600,000 to buy the land, knocking the cost to the 20/20 program down to $1.4 million.
Commissioners will also get the final say on buying a 12-acre site in North Fort Myers near the end of Pelican Way for $100,000.