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Lee County catches Collieritis

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  • | 7:12 p.m. February 4, 2010
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Collier County has a well-deserved reputation for its anti-business local government, but Lee County seems to be catching up with its neighbor to the south.

The latest example is Lee County's efforts to limit growth on 90,000 acres of land in the southern part of the county, which long ago was set aside for agriculture and mining. That's about 17% of the county's landmass and a critical part of the local economy.

Now, Lee County wants to take mining rights away from landowners in the name of conservation despite dubious scientific evidence that it's an area worth cordoning off. Problem is, the rock in that area is some of the best quality in the state and preventing its mining will cost the local economy billions of dollars in lost jobs and revenues.

With some minor quibbles, the state recently gave Lee County the green light to move ahead with the restrictive plan, virtually guaranteeing a major lawsuit from landowners.

“The county never set up a forum to discuss the issues,” says Dan DeLisi of DeLisi Fitzgerald, a planning firm that represents several landowners. Landowners were eager to develop a plan that would benefit all sides, but politicians largely ignored them. “Everything we say falls on deaf ears,” DeLisi says.

Now, a judge is likely to decide the future of the huge tract of land in question, and taxpayers will once again be footing the bill for legal expenses — a bill the county can hardly afford — while Lee's reputation as a business-friendly county will take another hit.


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