Monday, October 23, 2017

Estero the latest to bail on SWFL Regional Planning Council

Estero Village hall


The embattled Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council lost another member on Tuesday.

Already watching as first Sarasota County, then Lee and Charlotte Counties leaving, and with Collier on the brink of an exit, the body is now starting to lose municipal members as well.

Estero’s Village Council voted to make their leave from the regional planning council on Tuesday by a unanimous vote.

“I think it’s important that we do this,” councilman Jim Wilson said. Wilson serves as the village’s representative to the council. “From the emails I receive from them, I’m still counted for them to even make a quorum and I’m no longer attending the meetings on a regular basis.”

It marks another blow to the council which has entered a rapid death spiral in recent months.

Sarasota started the ball rolling earlier this year. Counties are required to be a part of the council by state law, but the county determined that there was nothing forcing them to keep paying membership dues.

Lee County bailed in June, taking with them nearly half of the council’s dues in the process. Charlotte County followed suit a week later, and Collier is expected to vote to leave in September when they return from summer recess.

With Collier gone, that would leave just Hendry and Glades Counties as dues paying members at the county level. Hendry voted to stay in another year last week.

“There won’t be much left of the regional planning council once that happens,” said village attorney Burt Saunders. Saunders also serves as a commissioner in Collier County.

Estero’s share of the council dues comes to $9,000, it was paid for by the county this year. Unlike the counties, which have to give a year’s notice that they won’t be paying their dues, municipalities don’t have that restriction.

Wilson said that most of the discussion at the council’s meeting have been about projects that aren’t relevant to Estero or to Lee or Collier Counties.

“Most of the agenda items are Sarasota County, which I’m not that familiar with,” Wilson said.

Estero’s membership runs through the end of the fiscal year, which is September 30. The village will leave the council at that time.

“If it’s not an effective time for us, I don’t think we should be involved in spending time in something that we don’t agree that it’s necessary for us to be there,” Mayor Jim Boesch said.

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