Kathie Ebaugh, Lee County principal planner, is back in the spotlight as the tip of the economic recovery spear.
As main architect of the Vision 2035 county economic development plan, Ebert spent considerable time two years ago gathering Gasparilla Island input for her state report. Ebaugh said then the county would be well served in adopting approaches Boca Grande has embraced all along.
This week, Ebaugh joins 600 other Florida planners in welcoming a contingent of national planners to the American Planning Association meeting in Naples with the theme: "Charting a New Course." Here's her view on how well the Lee County economy is emerging from the Great Recession and what Boca Grande and other Southwest Florida communities can expect from government in the recovery and can do themselves.
Kathie Ebaugh in a 2010 appearance in Boca Grande.
QUESTION: After everybody leaves the Waldorf-Astoria this weekend in Naples, will Florida be any farther along the road to economic recovery?
A: Of course. I'm excited about the opportunity we have to showcase our region off to 600 planners from across the state. As planners we know we're beyond the bottom of the downturn and looking up to what's next. That's why the theme "Charting our Course," is so appropriate because we're excited about things to come.
Q: What can be done to spur the recovery?
Kathie Ebaugh at a glance
Birth date: July 25, 1969.
Family: college sweetheart of 14 years and 4-year-old boy
Occupation: Lee County principal planner responsible for community planning program Vision 2035, public workshop, and other design-based planning related to the Lee Plan.
Experience: Nearly four years as comprehensive planner in Venice, four-plus years as senior project manager for the David Bell Planning Group.
Education: master's degree in city planning from Morgan State University, bachelor's degree in political science from Towson University.
Political affiliation: Democrat
Boca Grande connection: Coordinated Lee County Planning Division series of 12 public workshops, board meetings and stakeholder presentations, including two in Boca Grande, to shape the comprehensive plan update by identifying issues, challenges, and opportunities that will affect Lee County's future.
Contact: Call (239) 533-8313 or e-mail KEbaugh@leegov.com
A: All the easy areas to planning and development have been done. We need to redevelop areas and make them new and better. It's a huge challenge. It's a whole lot easier to develop a greenfield than take something and transform it into something else.
Q: As a planner, how would you rate Lee County's recovery from the Great Recession?
A: Wow, that's a good question. In terms of planning we use this as an opportunity to target areas where we want future growth and promote redevelopment. How do we do that? That's what Vision 2035 is about and this conference is about.
Q: Where does the Lee County economic plan Vision 2035 stand?
A: We've been working on it for 21/2 years now and we are nearing the end of the policy development phase. Next, we will be bringing policy elements to the community sustainability committee for review. In the next quarter we'll bring elements involving housing, character and form, and ideas of how we want to focus redevelopment in mixed-use areas. How we handle transportation and future land use elements are two main keys.
Q: Will you be coming to Boca Grande for public meetings as in 2010 when this process began?
A: We will be doing series just like we did at the start of this process. I'll be coming out to all communities, including Boca Grande, finding out if the plan achieves what we all want and looking for feedback.
Q: When does Vision 2035 become official policy?
A: After the public hearings, we'll send the finished policy to the Lee County Commissioners for approval and then the various state and adjoining communities such as Charlotte County, Hopefully, we'll adopt it next spring.
Q: Can Vision 2035 help mend some of the gaps between what is allowed on Boca Grande and what is allowed in the rest of Lee County?
A: I hear people frustrated from Boca Grande all the time because they have to ask for exceptions and it can take a year to gain approval. In the future it won't be that way. We'll support what people in Boca Grande want to do more than we do now.
Q: Boca Grande receives very little in the way of tax dollar return. Does Vision 2035 address this inequity in any way?
A: Vision 2035 supports community planning. It supports keeping Boca Grande the way it is.
Q: What is the most immediate benefit that will be evident to Gasparilla Island residents from Vision 2035?
A: A couple of things: We'll definitely make a hard and concerted effort to better define urban and rural areas. We want to ensure sprawl doesn't take over our great rural areas such as those in Southwest Florida. We need to target specific areas for redevelopment.
Q: Is there any frustration that your work tends to bear fruit in years rather than immediately?
A: Umm, no. That's what long-range planning is about. It's about looking into the future 30 to 40 years. The frustration is getting the community to understand that it is a long-term process and we need to stay the course. There aren't any short-term fixes. The low-hanging fruit is gone. We should recognize every step we make is one step closer to reaching our goal.