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First Town Hall meeting held to decide charter

March 21, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The first of four Town Hall meetings was held Thursday night at the Pine Island Community Church. The purpose of the meetings is to gather residents' feedback on the proposed charter for the proposed 'Village of Matlacha/Pine Island'. A feasibility study and a written charter are requirements to move forward with the incorporation process.

The meeting was chaired by Joe Mazurkiewicz, the president for BJM Consulting Inc., a firm that specializes in local government activities. Mazurkiewicz served as mayor of Cape Coral from 1983 to 1993 before forming BJM Consulting, which works on a variety of local issues ranging from land use cases to incorporation studies.

BJM Consulting was hired by the Greater Pine Island Civic Association to conduct a study on the financial feasibility of incorporating Pine Island and Matlacha.

Florida statutes mandate that any community requesting incorporation submit a written municipal charter, along with a feasibility study to state representatives (Ray Rodriguez and Dane Eagle). The four Town Hall meetings are scheduled to create the charter.

"This also gives the voters of Pine Island and Matlacha something specific to vote either for or against," Mazurkiewicz said. "The charter establishes the form of government, the number of council people and many other things in black and white. Instead of voting on the 'idea' of a city without really knowing what that means."

There are three main forms of government in the state of Florida: The first a strong mayor, who is the chief elected official and runs the city council. The mayor and city council are elected by the people. The second is a city council with a town manager. The council hires a city manager to manage the city. The third is a city commission elected by the people.

"Home rule is treasured by local governments and what is accomplished with incorporation." Mazurkiewicz said. "All three forms of government have the same level of home rule."

Kathleen Hannon mentioned that because the population of Matlacha is disproportionately smaller than the population of Pine Island, the Matlacha residents could see the 'dissolution' of their vote on a city council.

Mazurkiewicz suggested that issue could be overcome by the type of government and the number of voting districts for council members to offer Matlacha a more equitable vote.

The first step in the incorporation process is the proposal (charter and feasibility study) would be presented to the county representatives. At that time, if Matlacha residents wanted to "opt-out," they could request that to the county representatives, who would likely approve.

"What we have to ask ourselves is, are we (Pine Island / Matlacha residents) more aligned with Cape Coral than we are with each other, or are we more aligned with the Lee County Commissioners?" GPICA president Roger Wood said.

There were questions raised about the possibility of future annexations of properties on Matlacha. Cape Coral Fire Commissioner Michael Dreikorn related that the agreement made in March 2017 between the Fire District and the city of Cape Coral that Cape Coral agreed to not "affirmatively annex" any properties in Matlacha.

"Affirmatively means they will not go out and buy property to annex at least until 2037," Dreikorn said. "But, of course, elected bodies change all the time and that could change also."

Mazurkiewicz summarized the meeting into "issues decided," "issues to be researched further," "issues to be included in the proposed charter" and "language to be included in the preamble."

Issues decided: Form of government will be council/manager

Issues to be researched further: Number of council members 5 or 7. Election to be at large or single-member district or some hybrid. Study to see if there is a way to make sure all areas are represented on council

Issues to be included in proposed charter: Primary funding for capital improvements and maintenance will be by special assessments from improved properties based on a prorate share or taxable value. Comp plan changes will need a super majority vote to be adopted.

Language to be included in preamble: Items of importance are land use, clean water and maintaining present lifestyle (quality of life)

"Once we work through the charter, we will send out another mailing asking voters if they want to incorporate and vote 'Yes' or 'No.'" Wood said. "If it goes, it goes if it doesn't go, it doesn't go."

GPICA's second town hall meeting is Thursday at Pine Island Community Church at 6 p.m.



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