Expansion Without Proper Infrastructure

By: Susan Allen

I recently wrote an article called “Sprawl Hurts Us All”.  It elaborated on the concern that unbridled development has harmful effects on the citizens of Lee County. Alva Strong, a local group of concerned citizens and several other local groups, have been fighting the Lee County Commissioners over the ever expanding, high density developments. Their close ties to land developers such as Neal Communities have, at very least, an appearance of impropriety with a recent  5-0 vote in favor of amending the zoning map to allow water and sewer to feed the 1000+ homes that Neal is proposing on North River Road what is now a rural area.

Pat Neal is a former state representative who has close ties and donated to each commissioner.  In spite of the overwhelming public outcry against high density, high population communities, our Lee County Board of Commissioners Yes vote was in direct opposition to its own Local Planning Agency recommendation. The commissioners paid little attention to the public as they voiced their concerns and several commissioners disrespected their constituents by being absent on the days during parts of the public hearing.  The plan will allow for a sewer pipe to be placed under the Caloosahatchee River, a river already plagued by pollution that contributes to red tide.  Traffic, pollution, and the effect on wildlife are but a few of the long term consequences of rapid ill-planned development. But perhaps the most significant dangers of overpopulation are the effect on our health care system. As Lee County’s population reaches nearly one million, and with no sign that our commissioners intend to slow the growth, the system is flooded and the healthcare system becomes as sick as its patients.

 According to statistics there should be a minimum of 2.4 hospital beds per 1000 people. Lee County is well below this benchmark.  Compound that with an acute shortage of Florida physicians and nurses due to the ever expanding population, and seasonal guest and our ER waiting rooms look like a combat zone. In Florida, the shortage of family medicine physicians achieve only 62% of the demand.  By 2030 an additional 22,000 physicians will be required to meet future needs. EMS services are over stressed and prolonged response times are now the norm.

I’d like to share a personal story that unfortunately reflects the seriousness of Lee County’s dilemma. I was an RN for 43 year.  My roommate from Nursing School and I have been best friends since I was 17 years old. She experienced a life threatening reaction to the Covid booster and spent a week in the ICU, I invited her and her 95 year old mother, who was under her care, to move to Florida and share our home so she could recover and have help with her mother.  Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and because it was caught early required only surgery.  However, now the cancer had spread to her abdomen. Her surgeon referred her to a medical oncologist to develop a treatment plan for chemo and possible radiation but her prognosis is not encouraging. Some statistics place her survival at 2-11 months without treatment.   In spite of many discouraging hours on the phone, it took 2 weeks before she could get in contact with the office to secure an appointment date. Many doctors were not seeing new patients and had only distant appointment times available.  The nearest appointment time was for an additional 6 weeks out. Let’s do the math. A quickly growing cancer without treatment but she can’t be seen by a physician for 6 weeks.  This is only one story.  There are many more just like it.  I place the blame squarely on the Board of County Commissioners who put their interest and those of the insiders above the citizens that they have sworn to represent.  More homes and people require more doctors, nurses and hospital beds. It’s time we hold our commissioners responsible for their dangerously poor decisions.

Flooding our communities with more and more people without the infrastructure to support it is irresponsible. So what can we do? First let’s stop voting in candidates that do not have the public’s best interest in mind. This is not a right verses left issue. Good and honest government begins at the local level.  VOTE THE PRIMARY!  Remove the current board that are beholding only to commercial interest. Write your representatives, attend public meetings and vote wisely.  Let’s replace this commission with servant leaders who actually represent us. Get involved! For more information contact AlvaStrong.org.

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