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Some thoughts on incorporation

November 15, 2017
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor,

Some thoughts to share on the potential incorporation of Matlacha and Pine Island:

1. The July postcard straw ballot sent out by GPICA resulted in 1,997 registered voters checking the box "Yes! GPICA should continue to investigate incorporation." 2,505 postcards were returned from among 7,148 voters, a return of 35 percent. The 1,997 votes to continue the investigation are 28 percent of the total registered voters. As Brad Adolphson accurately observed at the GPICA meeting on Nov. 7, this was not a vote FOR incorporation by any one.

2. A "Charter" was drafted sometime in the summer. The Charter was not posted online until this week. The Charter governs the power of the proposed municipality. This draft Charter has not been the subject of debate at any public meeting.

3. The draft Charter grants to the proposed new municipal council the broadest powers that can be afforded a municipality under Florida law. The draft Charter empowers the council, among other things, to: make laws, plan capital projects, create agencies, establish budgets, purchase land, sign contracts, change zoning, set taxes, set licensing fees, conduct investigations, issue subpoenas for testimony, remove council members for cause, enforce codes and anything else a municipality may do under Florida law.

4. In the event of a dispute between a resident and the municipality, the draft Charter provides that its terms shall be construed in favor of the municipality.

5. The proposed council will consist of 5 delegates from each of 5 areas evenly divided by registered voters. Matlacha and Matlacha Isles' approximately 700 registered voters will be part of a district that includes the middle of Pine Island, with a total voting population of over 1,400. Hence, it is possible that Matlacha may never elect a council member from its own island.

6. The new council, however, will have total municipal authority over Matlacha and Matlacha Isles under the draft Charter.

7. I have been told that our legislative representatives, Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Eagle, do not want to consider incorporation until after the annexation lawsuit against Cape Coral is decided. Therefore, the Legislature will not consider incorporation until the 2019 legislative year.

8. Cape Coral and Matlacha have finished the filing all of their pleadings with the Circuit Court on the annexation lawsuit. All that is left is for Judge Kyle to make a decision, which could occur any day.

9. I am also told that Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Eagle will support incorporation only if there is proof that the majority of Matlacha residents and the majority of Pine Island residents are in favor.

10. GPICA leaders have always assured Matlacha that if the majority of its residents are not in favor of incorporation, Matlacha will not be included.

11. GPICA leaders already are circulating a petition for persons to sign expressing their support for incorporation. Today, I asked the GPICA president to postpone this action until after a decision on the annexation lawsuit, and after the community has had time to discuss the draft charter and the new feasibility study prepared Aug. 31, 2017.

12. To my knowledge, the new feasibility study has not been posted by GPICA or distributed to its members. Today, the GPICA president sent a copy of it to certain selected "community leaders."

13. The new feasibility study eliminates Cape Royal from the new municipality. The feasibility study must comply with detailed requirements of Florida Statute 165.041 and 165.061. In my opinion, there are serious questions as to whether the study is in compliance.

14. Today, I also asked the GPICA president to convene a series of community meetings to discuss the pros and cons of incorporation, the draft Charter, the new feasibility study and to include an attorney to answer the legal questions being posed.

15. The Matlacha Civic Association will hold its first meeting of the new year on Nov. 15, at 6 p.m., at the Matlacha Community Center. Incorporation will be featured on the agenda. Noel Andress has graciously agreed to provide us with his presentation on incorporation that was previously made at the GPICA meeting on Nov. 7.

Let us continue our cordial and courteous weighing of these important issues throughout the new year.

Mike Hannon




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