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Community Activist Carleton Ryffel Dies at Age 66

07/18/2011 at 6:12pm
Carleton Ryffel

Community Activist
Carleton Ryffel Dies at Age 66

Last Thursday, July 14th, the Sand Paper was saddened to learn of the demise of islander Carleton Ryffel. Currently the Vice-Chair of the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency and Chair of the Lee County LPA, Ryffel was a resident of north Estero Island for more than 20 years, with most of those years spent as an active community watchdog.

Ryffel was born on August 19, 1944 in New York City to Henry and Fay (Giaquinto). He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and his Master of Science degree in Urban and Regional Planning, both from Florida State University. Carleton has more than 36 years of experience in all aspects of planning for both the public and private sectors. He also served in the United States Air Force.

In the private sector, he owned his own firm for 17 years. He used his expertise in planning, zoning and designing on more than 400 development projects and presenting land use amendments. In the public sector, he was the Planning Director for Sanibel Island, FL, Princeton, NJ and Cape Coral, FL. He was also the Environmental Planner and Zoning Administrator for the City of Gainesville, FL. Recently, he was the owner of Van Buskirk, Ryffel and Associates, Inc. along with Paul Van Buskirk.

It was this experience that he brought to both LPA's, and helped him become a finalist (along with Walter Fluegel) for the Town's Community Development Director position. Bill Van Duzer, who has served on the LPA since the Town's incorporation in 1995, told us that he has routinely sought Ryffel's expertise over the years.

"Carleton joined the LPA 2 years ago, but I've always gone to him for advice,”Van Duzer said. "And he would come back with precise information about what I wanted to know.”

Van Duzer told us that he valued Ryffel both as a fellow LPA member and as a friend.

"He was an outstanding member of this community and I'm proud to have known him a friend,” he said. "He's very intelligent and proved himself to be a valuable citizen of Fort Myers Beach.”

LPA Chair Joanne Shamp agreed, saying she will miss working with Ryffel.

"One thing about Carleton, that man loved this island!” she said. "It was a real gift to the Town that he brought his expertise and used it on the LPA. He really felt strongly about defending our comprehensive plan and our land development code, and he was very excited about the north island dredging project.”

Living on the island at the time of incorporation made Ryffel a strong proponent of the vision held by those campaigning for local rule, according to Shamp.

"He contributed a great deal of his time to protecting our assests here on this island,” she said. "Personally, he became a friend because we shared a similar vision. He was very independent while at the same time very committed to this island as a whole.”

In addition to his work on the LPA, Carleton was a charter member of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Certified Planners and served as Chairman of the Lee County Land Development Code Advisory Committee for over 20 years.

He is survived by his children, Jennifer L. (Bryan) Matamoros of Fort Myers, FL, Amy F. (Jay) Kragh of Ocala, FL and Eric C. Ryffel of Lehigh Acres, FL, his parents, Henry and Fay Ryffel of Hilton Head, SC, his sister, Carolyn Procopio of Mahwah, NJ, his granddaughter, Stephanie L.Ryffel of Fort Myers, FL, an unborn granddaughter of Ocala, FL and his nephew, Jon Michael Procopio of Mahwah, NJ.

A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 12 Noon at Hope Hospice, 9470 HealthPark Circle, Fort Myers, FL 33908. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent in his memory to Hope Hospice. Friends may sign the guest book at

Keri HendryCarleton Ryffel