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Paradise Isle project hearing held
August 5, 2020

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After several years and with delays and continuances, the planned Paradise Isle project came before the Hearing Examiner Wednesday and Thursday.

Paradise Isle representatives made their case Wednesday to Hearing Examiner Donna Marie Collins, addressing key issues such as building height, which would be more than double the maximum allowed by Lee County, and traffic in the immediate area.

They also testified to the economic impact of the project, and compared it to developments at Tarpon Point and Marina Village in neighboring Cape Coral.

The project would create 4,000 jobs during construction as well as more than 1,200 permanent jobs and $1.1 billion in cumulative financial impact, those presenting the developer's proposal said.

On Thursday, Anthony Rodriguez, principal planner for the county, said the count, however, would recommend denial, principally because of the proposed location of the boat storage and the height of the buildings.

Another issue, the ability of the North Fort Myers Fire District to provide fire protection for those in the high rises, has been addressed by the future addition of a ladder truck.

"This will bring in needed revenue and buy more equipment. We need an aerial device and new engine. There will also be a new fire station needed," said North Fort Myers Fire Commissioner Danny Ballard. "We have one of the largest mobile home communities in the country and it doesn't bring in much money. This is provide us with the needed funds."

During public input, the vast majority spoke in favor of the planned mixed-use resort along the Caloosahatchee River, saying it would put the community on the map and be a game-changer for the area economically.

"This will bring back the area and is a gem for the whole county. Everyone will benefit. It will create jobs, the county and fire department are. It's necessary to have it. It will be good for everyone," said Robert McCormack. "This is take a lot of boats out of yards."

"The Paradise Isle project is suited to reinvigorate the area. It will not intrude on the other aspects the area is known for," said Doug Dailey, president of the North Fort Myers Civic Association. "This will only help enhance the area that has been targeted for economic development. We believe this will be source of pride for the North Fort Myers community."

State Rep. Spencer Roach (R-79) was also among those speaking.

He said the area is on the precipice of greatness and that Paradise Isle could swing things in the community's favor.

"This could be the catalyst we need to put North Fort Myers on the map," Roach said. "This is an area that has been slated for development and of all the projects that have been proposed, this is the best."

A handful of dissenters were concerned about the fate of wildlife, traffic, and the character of the neighborhood, asking the project be denied or reduced.

Both sides returned Friday so the petitioners could make their closing arguments and the county could rebut.

The hearing examiner will keep the record open until Aug. 31 so that both sides can work out conditions and possibly come to an agreement on the two main issues.

"Things went well. I think we made our points and we were pleased by the magnitude of the support we had from the community," said Russ Schropp, lead attorney for the petitioners. "The two issues we have left we are confident in the way we're interpreting it and that it's correct."

Paradise Isle is being planned as a mixed-use resort along the Caloosahatchee River, with homes, a marina, office space, a renewed golf course and more.

The 271-acre multi-billion dollar project is expected to include 543 luxury hotel rooms, two 20-story residential towers overlooking the river, a refurbished 18-hole golf course, two 12-story towers adjacent to the golf course, three story townhouses, a marina with 200 wet slips and 200 dry boat storage slips, 600 multi-family homes, a 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, a riverfront boardwalk, open space, walking paths and more.

It will also have up to 55,000 square feet of retail space, 22,000 square feet of office space, 23,000 square feet for a fitness center or health spa and 22,500 square feet for restaurant use.

Collins will give her recommendations to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in late September or early October. The BOCC will hold a public hearing on Paradise Isles shortly thereafter and decide whether to approve. Only those who spoke before the HEX will be allowed to speak before the commission.

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