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Matlacha Chamber discusses incorporation

November 22, 2017
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Concerns over the annexation of property in Matlacha and discussions about incorporation of Matlacha/Pine Island brought the Matlacha Chamber of Commerce together last Monday morning for the first time in more than a year.

"Matlacha Island's industry is tourism," MCC president Leoma Love-grove said. "Even though we don't have a lot of hotels, we are a destination. When it rains on those beaches in Sanibel or Fort Myers Beach, tourists come here and during season we see as many as 500 people a day."

Lovegrove stated calls to the Lee County Commissioner go unanswered.

"We don't have a voice, we're forgotten out here. That's why we need to have our own representative government," Lovegrove said.

The invited speaker was Greater Pine Island Civic Association president Roger Wood. Also present was former County Commissioner Ray Judah to present a petition that would allow Lee County voters to vote in the primaries regardless of party affiliation.

Judah served on the County Commission for 24 years and was there to gather signatures for a petition for Lee Voter Freedom. According to Judah, "Special interests are controlling the election process on the local level. The Lee County Commission voting process makes it possible to close the election process to almost 60 percent of registered voters by putting on the Primary Ballot a write-in candidate that has no intention of holding the office."

The amendment will allow all registered voters to vote in the primaries regardless of their voter registration status.

"We need 30,000 signed petitions by March 1, 2018, so we can get a referendum on the November ballot," Judah said. "Please visit where you can download the Lee Voter Freedom Petition"

Wood delivered a few remarks in favor of incorporation. A resident of Matlacha and Pine Island for 19 years, Wood is convinced Matlacha and Pine Island need to incorporate to protect the islands land use.

"I'm sure many of you have seen on the news that last year we had a 'trigger event'," Wood said. "The city of Cape Coral had purchased property over by Miceli's. Many Pine Islanders went to the Cape's City Council meeting where we voiced our objections and the council voted to annex the property anyway. Under their building ordinances, they could by-pass the Pine Island Plan and build an 8-story building on that property."

GPICA has been paying for the studies paving the way towards incorporation. The study suggests that with a small manager/council government would not increase property taxes on Pine island.

GPICA member Noel Andress created a first draft of a city charter (modeled after the Estero charter) to be modified by residents in the next year.

"Incorporation is the only way that guarantees us that Cape Coral will not annex any more of Matlacha or Pine Island," Wood said.

The timeline the GPICA proposes towards incorporation is as follows. Matlacha and Pine Island residents would have to be fully informed about the proposed incorporation by the end of 2018. The state Legislature would have to approve the bill for incorporation in the session early 2019 and the governor would sign the bill in May.

In the fall of 2019, Matlacha and Pine Island voters would vote on the referendum to incorporate. If more than 50 percent vote for incorporation, the Villages of Matlacha & Pine Island (or some other name), will be incorporated. If more than 50 percent vote against incorporation, there will be no incorporation.



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