Neighbors oppose new homes being built in Pine Lakes neighborhood

Reporter: Gail Levy, Taylor Wirtz Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Dozens of people are angry about a new proposal to build more homes in the Pine Lakes neighborhood of North Fort Myers. On Tuesday evening, people spoke their minds at a meeting.

Tuesday night’s meeting did not go over well. It was supposed to be informative without any decisions getting made. But that didn’t stop Pine Lakes residents from letting everyone know how they felt about the proposed development.

Pine Lakes residents brought a green wave to the North Fort Myers rec center, armed with a mountain of questions and concerns.

“It’s very special. And we’d like to keep it that way,” Tish Stencel, a Pine Lakes resident, said.

Engineers from Equity Lifestyles Property gave a county-mandated presentation of their proposed plans for Pine Lakes Two, which includes 336 new manufactured homes.

Neighbors explained they’re concerned with what would come with the addition, particularly the potential extensions to turn lanes of Pine Lakes Boulevard and US 41.

“The exit off of 41 is so backed up that you just can’t turn left to get into our place a lot of times, especially if it is a church service…then you gotta wait for about 45 minutes,” Pine Lakes resident Richard Saniti said.

The engineers said these lane extensions are supported by traffic studies, but homeowners aren’t convinced.

“I don’t think that just meeting minimum standards to for the county or for the state of Florida….I think the safety of the 1,800 or 2,000 souls that live in our community would be more important,” Pine Lakes resident Joseph Leblond said.

They also worry about having to share amenities with all the people who would move into those new homes.

“It was designed for a certain number of people, and all of a sudden, they’re piggybacking over 300 more people on the existing niceties that we have,” Pine Lakes resident Chad Hamann said.

Neighbors explained they felt just as uncertain as before after leaving the meeting.

“We’re not happy Pine Lakes homeowners,” Pine Lakes resident Ron Thoreson said.

There are even more issues neighbors had with the proposal, like the debate over who owns Pine Lakes Blvd. and Circle Pine Rd., but the message was clear during the meeting, they’d like ELS to go back to the drawing board.

The goal of the meeting was to figure out who owns Pine Lakes Boulevard and Circle Pine Road. The people living there believe they own it. They haven’t found anything set in stone that says Equity Lifestyles Property, the company that owns the neighborhood, owns the road. To the residents understanding, that company only maintains the roads.

Off of busy State Road 41 is what Ric Gregson calls a retiree’s paradise.

“We came here for a specific way of life. We like our gated community, we like our security here, we like the amenities that we have,” Gregson said.

Gregson moved to his paradise 18 months ago with a simple goal in mind, relaxing.

But, with Equity Lifestyles Property potentially bringing him 336 new neighbors, relaxing may be difficult.

“Can we keep the crime down,” Gregson asked. “Can we keep the people out that we’re trying to keep out of our small community as it grows into this large behemoth of residences that we had no idea that we were getting ourselves involved in?”

Gregson believes ELS can’t do what it’s proposing. The company wants to create three entrances to what would be Pine Lakes Two, off Circle Pine Road. But Gregson, along with many other neighbors like Ron Thoreson, believes the road they want to work on is owned by the residents. Thoreson explained to WINK News why he believes that.

“Well, there are parts in the development of this property in 1985 through 1987. There’s a plat map that reads that the roads and maintenance of them were granted in perpetuity to the people out on the roads, it’s called the Pine Lakes Estate Homeowners Association that’s right on the map,” Thoreson said.

Thoreson explained that in 2002 residents came to an agreement that ELSE would maintain the roads but said nothing shows ownership was granted. The agreement expired in 2022. In a statement, ELS told WINK News they own the roads. They also said they would build new amenities for the enjoyment of all Pine Lakes residents including a new clubhouse, swimming pool, and pickleball courts.

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