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Pine Island civic association to fund incorporation study

Reaction to city of Cape Coral’s annexation bid

January 6, 2017
By ED FRANKS (efranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

Pine Islanders angry at Cape Coral's decision to annex 5 acres of city-owned land in Matlacha got together Wednesday to talk about possibly becoming a city of their own with the Greater Pine Island Civic Association agreeing to fund a preliminary study to that end.

The incorporation talk came in the wake of Lee County officials declining to get involved in the city/island scrap.

Michael Dreikorn, president of Bokeelia Civic Association, Kristine "Birdi" Smock, president of the Matlacha Civic Association, and Roger Wood, president of the GPICA met with County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass and Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch last week, those attending the GPICA's first meeting of the year were told.

"The county attorney's legal opinion is that the annexation falls within the four corners of the statutes for annexation," Wood said. "That was their legal opinion even though the properties in question are about a half mile west of the Cape Coral border. We may have lost these properties because we only have seven days to try to stop it but we are here tonight to explore the long-term option of incorporating Pine Island."

Critics fear the annexation of the six lots that now serve as a parking lot for the boat launch ramp at D & D Bait & Tackle, could lead to development inconsistent with the islands' development strategy, the Pine Island Plan.

"The purpose of the GPICA is to promote environmentally responsible planning for smart growth and promote preservation of sensitive natural areas," Wood said. "The GPICA recognizes and promotes the unique character of our rural and agricultural island community. That's what we're here for tonight."

The city has been non-responsive to island concerns, failing to heed input at the Dec. 12 meeting at which the annexation was approved, he added.

"A large number of us showed up in Cape Coral in an attempt to have our voices heard as part of the process but essentially the Council said no, we're just going to pass this ordinance over your objections," Wood said. "We have 30 days to appeal the decision and the 30 days are up next Wednesday. We are currently looking into other legal options."

Wood introduced Joe Mazurkiewicz, the president of BJM Consulting, Inc. Mazurkiewicz served as mayor of Cape Coral from 1983 to 1993 before forming the consulting firm that works on a variety of local issues ranging from land use cases to incorporation studies.

BJM Consulting has completed incorporation studies for Pelican Bay, Fort Myers Beach, Golden Gate, Bonita Springs, Boca Grande, Cape Haze, Lehigh Acres, Ruskin, Captiva, North Fort Myers and Apollo Beach, and the firm is currently working on an update for Lehigh Acres.

"My firm has worked with 25 communities all over the state of Florida in helping them look at the possibility of incorporation," Mazurkiewicz said. "In all of those cases only three have become incorporated. What we do is provide a feasibility study. When we put together a report we deal only in facts, the good, the bad and the ugly. The final decision is up to you."

The first consideration is whether incorporation is even financially feasible. Whether there's enough tax base and whether the number of people meet the criteria, are key, he said.

"I know this report works because it's been applied to Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs and most recently Estero and they've all exceeded my revenue projections," Mazurkiewicz said.

Florida statutes for incorporation has three criteria:

* You have to be contiguous and compact

* You have to have 5,000 people

* The area requires a density of 1.5 people per acre

"But any of those criteria can be waived by the state legislature," Mazurkiewicz said. "We perform a feasibility report to determine what services are being provided on the island, by whom and their cost before incorporation, then compute the same costs after incorporation and compare the two."

The timeline includes having a bill introduced to the local delegation so it can be introduced to the state of Florida Sept. 1. The local delegation consists of: State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, State Rep. Ray Rodriguez, State Rep. Matt Caldwell, State Rep. Dane Eagle and State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

"Once approved by the Legislature, the governor signs it and then the jurisdiction votes either for or against the incorporation," Mazurkiewicz said. "In all, it will take two years to completion."

Mazurkiewicz agreed to perform a 'preliminary' study to determine whether Pine Island and Matlacha meet the requirements to be a successful incorporated town. The cost for the preliminary study is up to $10,000.

"If we determine while performing the study that it's not feasible we stop," Mazurkiewicz said.

The Greater Pine Island Civic Association will pay for the study.

All GPICA meetings are open to the public at no charge. The group meets at the Elks on Pine Island Road, west of Stringfellow, on the first Tuesday of the Month at 7 p.m. Membership is $10 per person annually.

Contact Roger Wood, president at, 920-421-3984.

The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7.

 
 

 

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