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GPICA discusses incorporation feasibility study

February 14, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Last Tuesday night, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its monthly meeting at the Elks Club. The focus of the meeting was a defense of the Matlacha-Pine Island incorporation feasibility study by Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consulting Inc.

Details of the study were questioned by Matlacha resident and urban-planner Greg Stuart in a presentation to the Matlacha Civic Association at that group's January meeting. Stuart delivered a slide presentation entitled "The Case Against Incorporation."

Stuart listed a number of reasons why he thinks incorporation isn't feasible, starting with an inadequate tax base and inadequate population base.

Stuart suggested in his presentation that newly incorporated Pine Island/Matlacha would be the second largest city (at 43 square miles) in Lee County with the lowest population density of 0.334 persons per acre.

"If you look at the state's municipality incorporation statute, it clearly states that you have to have 1.5 persons per acre," Stuart said.

Mazurkiewicz pointed out that while it's true incorporated Pine Island / Matlacha would be the largest city with the lowest population density, once conservation and agricultural lands are removed from the equation the density per acre rises to 1.22 persons. To meet the state requirement of 1.5 persons per acre, the city would request a waiver, according to Mazurkiewicz

In addition, Mazurkiewicz believes some of the comparison cities Stuart used (Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Sanibel) "are not reasonable comparisons because those cities are 'full service' cities with fire, police, utility costs and legacy costs of many years of full-time employees with post employment benefits."

Mazurkiewicz comparison cities include only cities with "government lite" forms of government: Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers Beach.

"These cities do not have a full cadre of services," Mazurkiewicz said. "They have separate utilities, separate fire and so it's a better comparison."

Stuart listed long-term climate change, miles of unpaved roads that do not fall under county maintenance agreements and infrastructure needs in coming years.

Mazurkiewicz does not believe property taxes would increase due to the high percentage of conservation and agricultural lands. These lands don't require municipal services or public work expenditures.

Stuart's presentation is available on Facebook page "Pine Island Strong" and Mazurkiewicz's response is available on the GPICA website: (Answering Questions Raised about Incorporation).

In additional business, Matlacha Civic Association president Birdi Smock made a motion that the word "intimidating" be removed from the minutes from the January meeting of the GPICA. The word was in reference to a letter sent to the GPICA by three Matlacha residents requesting 10 years of GPICA records.

Roger Wood read the portion of the letter the GPICA Board considered intimidating:

"The letter was addressed to the Officers, Directors and Members of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, Inc.," Wood said.

"Continued failure to comply with the by-laws and Florida law will result in dissolution of GPICA. We will be serving a letter on the GPICA officers to permit review and copying of its records from the past several years. The request will be inclusive of the following: financial records, audit reports, membership records, minutes of the BOD and membership meetings, meeting sign-in sheets, correspondence, invoices, email communications, bank checks and deposits.

"Florida Law requires that these documents be produced within 10 business days of a request. The purpose of this request is to determine whether GPICA has been complying with its own by-laws and Florida Law. If the request is not granted, a lawsuit can be filed in Lee County Circuit Court for enforcement of this right. Should we win the lawsuit, the court may award attorney's fees against GPICA."

The membership present voted to remove the word "intimidating." The complete letter is available on Facebook page "Pine Island Strong."



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