Lee County Commissioner Calls Out Media for Not Giving Enough Context to Massive Development Approval

By Lydia Nusbaum, Florida's Voice

June 27, 2022 Updated 12:17 PM ET

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June 27, 2022 Updated 12:17 P.M. ET

FORT MYERS (FLV) – Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, District 4, criticized local news outlets for not providing enough context to their stories that he said led to “uninformed and angry” residents. 

Lee County commissioners recently approved a plan allowing a developer to build 10,000 homes for a new community. Many county residents were upset that the commissioners approved the development, but Hamman said some local news outlets did not provide the correct context as to why the decision had to be made. 

“I think if they understood that once the judge ruled against us, there was no option for this to just remain a farm,” Hamman said. “At that point, it was either going to become a mine, or we needed to make a deal.”

In 2019, the county commission denied the property owner, King Ranch, the ability to create a rock mine on their farm in Southeast Lee County. The property owner sued the county to overturn the decision and for $63 million in damages. The judge ruled in King Ranch’s favor. 

Hamman said he knew residents would not want a mine on the property. So instead of allowing the mine and paying $63 million in taxpayer money, the commission settled to give the developer the right to build 10,000 homes. 

NBC2’s article reported on the large development but did not elaborate on the fact that the county lost in a lawsuit. The story mentions a mine without providing context. They also reported that the decision comes in “response” to the skyrocketing demand for housing. 

“If you read the NBC two story and you think, ‘Oh, they just want more houses here to deal with this demand for more housing.’ And that really had nothing to do with this at all,” Hamman said. 

“This wasn’t us reacting to a shortage of housing in the area. This was us reacting to the lawsuit.”

Hamman said the WINK News story only mentioned the threat of a lawsuit. 

“The owners of the land warned commissioners they planned to file a $63 million lawsuit. That led the hearing examiner to recommend the commissioners give the project the OK,” the WINK article said. 

“Well, no offense, we stand up to the threat of a lawsuit all day long,” Hamman said. “It was we lost the lawsuit.”

Even though the county appealed the decision, Hamman said the chances of winning round two are slim after already having lost round one. 

Hamman believes if viewers would have had the full context to the decision, they would have better understood the county’s decision. Hamman worked in television news for years. 

“I think, you know, for years when you talk to people and you ask them in general, how do you feel about the news? They all complain about sensationalism or things being misquoted,” Hamman said. “I think they’re talking about situations like this where they weren’t given the full story.”

Hamman said the new community is required to preserve and restore more than 3,200 acres of land. The developer will resolve flooding issues for neighbors and restore historic water flow ways. The community will have its own commercial zone to keep traffic on site for daily needs. 

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