Groups Raise Concerns About Development Plans In Sugar Land

Oct 2, 2014

Environmentalists and others rally in Downtown Fort Myers asking for state agencies to carefully consider looming development plans in Hendry County.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU

A coalition of environmentalists and realtors is asking state officials to carefully consider looming development plans south of Lake Okeechobee.

The Sierra Club held rallies on both coasts. One event was held in Fort Myers another in Fort Pierce. Both groups raised concerns about possible development south of Lake Okeechobee experts say could hurt ongoing Everglades’ restoration and efforts to move water south.

Under an expedited schedule, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District have until Friday to submit comments on the plan in Hendry County.

Environmentalists warn it could affect the millions of dollars the state and federal government has spent addressing water quality issues in Florida.

"The environment is our economy. The whole state is based on environmental issues. So, we need to have our environment in good shape." -- Shane Spring, Realtor on Sanibel Island.

Shane Spring ,a realtor on Sanibel, said the state has an economic incentive to prioritize restoration efforts. He also said he thinks it’s a good idea for struggling Hendry County to diversify its economy, but this should be done in a way that considers environmental consequences.

“I mean, the environment is our economy,” he said. “The whole state is based on environmental issues. So, we need to have our environment in good shape. So, we endorse smart growth and we also endorse the purchasing of lands that need to be done to flow the water south.”

Environmentalists are worried plans in Hendry County could raise the prices of neighboring Sugar Land, which the state has an option to buy for water quality projects.

Groups are asking state agencies to be deliberate and thorough in their comments to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which is tasked with signing off on the plan. Both DEP and the water management district have said they will be submitting comments.