Lee County Commissioners
Shelled Out $8.4 Million To Developer
Lee County commissioners shelled out $8.4 million Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with the would-be developer of Buckingham Village in Lehigh Acres.
Commissioners blocked a proposed mixed-use development in the eastern Lee County community in 2006 – against the advice of staffers and their hearing examiner.
Just because a few people show up in t-shirts and oppose something, Commissioner Chair Cecil Pendergrass said, doesn’t mean commissioners should vote against their own rules and policy.
“Past boards have made decisions based on a few people’s opposition to a project,” Pendergrass said. “It’s one of the reasons I ran for office. The commission has a fiscal responsibility to all of Lee County.”
Buckingham Village, LLC (Plaintiffs) bought property in August 2004, for $4,800,000 located on the north side of Buckingham Road where it intersects with Homestead Road (next to Harns Marsh Elem. and Middle Schools. In December 2004, Plaintiffs applied to rezone the property from agricultural (AG-2) to a Mixed Use Planned Development (MPD), consisting of 374 dwelling units and 232,500 square feet of commercial space. However, the Buckingham
Planning Community had insufficient acreage allotted by the Lee Plan to accommodate the proposed MPD. Staff recommended approval, with conditions of the rezoning and the Hearing Examiner concurred, but noted that there was insufficient residential and commercial capacity in the Buckingham Planning Community; concluding that future development order approval would require a change to the Lee Plan allocation for the Buckingham Planning Community.
Beginning in September 2005, staff was involved in the periodic evaluation and appraisal of the Lee Plan as required by Florida law. It was necessary to amend all acreage allocations in order to move the planning horizon forward to the year 2030 from the year 2020. Staff’s proposed amendment would have, among others things, increased the acreage allocated to the Buckingham Planning Community (CPA 2005-26). However, on December 13, 2006, the Board voted not to transmit the Buckingham Planning Community acreage allocation amendment to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for compliance review.
Plaintiffs filed suit in Court in 2007 and 2008.Ultimately, (effective June 2010), the Lee Plan was amended to increase the acreage allocations. The boundaries of Lee Plan Map 16, the graphic depiction of the planning communities, were redrawn so that the property was in the Lehigh Acres Planning Community instead of the Buckingham Planning Community.
On November 9, 2011, the Circuit Court found Lee County liable for a taking of Plaintiff’s property from December
13, 2006, through and including June 2, 2010, and ordered a jury trial to determine damages. At the jury trial that lasted from May 24, 2012, to May 30, 2012, damages were set at $4,600,000.00.