The Elks Club was packed with citizens for the Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) meeting last week. The majority were there to hear from Robert “Smokey” Smeja about his plans to develop 57 acres on Pine Island in South Florida into a Class A motorcoach resort, Windjammer RV Resort, the Pine Island Eagle, Bokeelia, reported.
“We’re here tonight to hear his presentation,” said Phil Buchanan, legal consultant for GPICA. “There is currently an approved plan to build 300 condos on the property, which predates the Pine Island plan. Smokey is seeking to change that to 200 high-end RV lots and include amenities such as a clubhouse and lake. That’s still a lot of density for this property. I’m sure the audience will have lots of questions.”
Smeja began his presentation noting he was a long-time resident of the island who had purchased the land along with approved plans for 300 condominiums including duplexes and seven three-story buildings.
“It has occurred to me,” he told the crowd, “that a better use would be for a destination RV resort using the same road layout and proposed lake. The RV lots would be sold individually. Development of the condominiums would take a long time whereas this project could be completed in 1 to 3 years.”
Smeja went on to explain his concept and showed a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, walking paths, conservation lands and buffer zones on a concept plan.
“I’m even going to put a couple beaches on the lake, which are not shown on this plan. If you offer the amenities, these people will come.” he said.
“I’m here to find out if you, as an island, want to be involved in a 305-condo project or an RV resort project,” he continued. “I have so much invested, I have to build something and I think the resort is a much better fit for Pine Island.”
The ensuing comments and questions covered concerns ranging from skepticism about Smeja’s claim that affluent RVers would buy the lots and come for just winter months, to questions about septic and water use, traffic issues, having the proposed RV resort degenerate into “a Pink Citrus” and potential impact on property values in adjacent communities such as Pine Island Cove and Pine Island Village.
GPICA President Roger Wood had his gavel in hand and used it on numerous occasions when comments became heated.
Throughout the discussion period, Smeja reiterated that he had to build “something” by August of 2013 and thought the RV resort was a better use of the acreage.
Debbie Iannucci, president of the Pine Island Village Homeowners Association, noted that her members had voted not to support the building of Windjammer RV Resort, primarily because they did not believe it was compatible with nearby residential uses and because of the impact on the community from traffic.
After some 45 minutes of questions, comments and discussion, a motion was made from the floor that the Greater Pine Island Civic Association not approve the re-zoning request at this time. The motion passed with 45 supporting and 1 against.
After the meeting adjourned, Smeja indicated he would be proceeding with the project, noting, “I had hoped to convey to my neighbors that I had a far better plan than the one I purchased. I need to follow up with the adjacent communities to see what they want. So far, it’s just been a concept.”
GPICA member Buchanan pointed out, “It’s a long way from over. We need to look at more plans and have future meetings, but convincing the neighbors it’s a good idea doesn’t look too likely to me. But despite the neighbors’ objections, I do suspect something will be built there sooner or later. That’s just the way things work.”