Opposition PAC

A new political action committee opened this week in Lee County with a six-figure budget signaling serious activity ahead.

“Protect Our Community,” with Fort Myers attorney Sawyer Smith listed as chairman, starts out with $100,000 from two donors, Thomas Burt, a financial adviser, and the Barnes Family Chiropractic Clinic in Cape Coral.

The stated purpose in organizing documents includes “contribute to candidates.”

Smith said the donors are neighbors of property on Winkler Road in south Fort Myers that’s the subject of a controversial rezoning. The land, which many who drive down Winkler south of College Parkway may notice for the open fields with horses and other small animals grazing, is the proposed site of a rehab facility that offers detox services, counseling, and other related activity.

Neighbors and nearby landowners have organized opposition, including petitions, websites, and appearances before county boards.

Some hearings were held in February; a recommendation is expected soon from the hearing examiner, and the project then goes to the county commissioners.

“It is not acceptable to sit in the stands and watch as our family homes and our children’s community is destroyed by the absence of vision and poor leadership,” said Amy Barnes, who lives near the proposed facility. “This area is unique and should remain zoned for residential and agriculture. … Once you lose it, it’s gone forever.”

Smith said other neighbors and businesses are also concerned about losing the neighborhood’s character. That open land provides rare green space, he said, and while businesses infilling open space elsewhere may be OK, this isn’t the place for it.

The PAC money, Smith said, “will be used to ensure the preservation of the character of the neighborhood.”