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Bay Harbour in governor’s hands

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Mar 30, 2021

The Bay Harbour project would replace Southern Comfort Storage on Main Street on San Carlos Island with a mixed use of residential and commercial space, including a 100-feet high residential building, townhouses, boat barn and marina. An administrative law judge has ruled against Lee County Government's comprehensive plan amendment to allow the project a zoning change for the development. The county and developer have appealed that decision. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

The future of Bay Harbour will be decided by Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of his administration.

The state Administration Commission will consider an appeal to a decision made by an administrative law judge who rejected the county’s approval of a rezoning for a residential and commercial project on San Carlos Island.

The zoning change approved by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for the Main Street project brought forward by developers Southern Comfort Storage LLC was rejected by Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyck over the impact it would have on hurricane evacuations.

Van Wyck found that the comprehensive plan amendment approved by the county to allow 75 residential units, including a 100-foot high residential building and townhouses, commercial development, boat barn and marina, was inconsistent with state statute for hurricane evacuations.

The lawsuit challenging the county’s approval was filed by William Semmer and Joanne Semmer.

Ralf Brookes, attorney for the Semmers, said “placing high-end residential dwelling units in a working waterfront is a bad idea because it is a coastal high hazard area.”

Brookes said residents would have to “join a long line of folks who are evacuating in a hurricane in a county that does not meet its level of service for hurricane evacuation. The judge found that it takes 84 hours to evacuate Lee County vastly (above) the maximum allowable evacuation time of 16 hours and that puts peoples’ lives at risk.”

In the response by Lee County and Southern Comfort Storage to the ruling and filing of exceptions, filed by attorney Russell Schropp of the firm Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, Schropp did not deny that the county doesn’t meet the state statute for hurricane evacuation in its plan amendment or that the project sits in a coastal high-hazard area.

Schropp stated that the decision by the judge was unconstitutional because it wouldn’t allow the development to proceed until the county’s “long-standing hurricane evacuation and shelter deficits into compliance with the standards deemed acceptable by the state.”

Schropp maintains that the order by the administrative law judge violates the due process of the developers.

No date has yet been set for a hearing.

The property in question is near the busy Main Street and San Carlos Boulevard intersection where vehicles line up to cross over the Matanzas Pass Bridge.