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Movement toward incorporation

March 21, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

The annexation by Cape Coral of 5 acres at the entrance to Matlacha and Pine Island in early 2017 rallied the Matlacha Civic Association to raise funds to legally challenge the annexation.The battle is ongoing and is now in the appeals process. Soon, a successful ruling for Matlacha will mean Cape Coral will no longer annex any of Matlacha or Pine Island. A favorable ruling will create a physical land boundary and any fear of Cape Coral encroachment is stopped. Our islands will remain within unincorporated Lee County with all current services will remain in place as they are today.

July 2017 to present, as the annexation battle continues, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association initiated incorporation of our islands to create a new city government separate from Lee County. August 3, 2017 - GPICA released "straw poll" results asking if residents would like to "investigate" incorporating.

GPICA, principals of incorporation, Roger Wood, Michael Dreikhorn and Noel Andress, at same time commissioned a "Feasibility & SWOT Analysis" released Aug. 31. This document was drafted by former Mayor of Cape Coral Joseph Mazurkiewicz. They then drafted the "Village Charter" that would be used to govern the new city.

On Sept. 1, 2017, GPICA submitted its poll result, studies, and charter, to Florida Office of the Clerk and lobbied our Southwest Florida Legislative Delegation to sponsor a bill for incorporation. This entire process occurred in less than 60 days. This time line and all documents can be verified on www.GPICA.org.

We urge all residents to visit the GPICA website and read critically all documents that now affect your future. Be informed. Be educated about the incorporation. Decide based on fact. Ignore the unsubstantiated fear that our islands are at the mercy of current local government before forming your opinion if incorporation, is or is not, best for Pine Island and Matlacha.

September 2017, island residents of both Pine Island and Matlacha discovered that their votes to "investigate" incorporation had been misconstrued by GPICA as a "YES" vote to incorporate. GPICA's rapid push of the entire process has many residents feeling GPICA is not transparent in its actions, does not conduct proper meetings per its own by-laws, is governed by a majority of unelected board members insensitive to Matlacha resident concerns, and that GPICA does not represent them as a whole island community.

Clearly apparent is that no "investigation" or input from residents occurred in the first push to incorporate. At inception, GPICA repeatedly assured every community that it did not want to force incorporation; hence, Cape Royal made notification its homeowners would not join incorporation. It is now apparent GPICA intends to force incorporation upon Matlacha.

MCA has asked state representatives to assure Matlacha residents that they will have a separate vote and ability to opt out of the incorporation process. Separate voting for all Island communities may best a best option as well - Matlacha Isles, St. James City and Bokeelia. Matlacha and some other residents now attending GPICA meetings to gain clarification as to GPICA intent and methods have consistently been met with hostility and further actions that have created greater suspicion and divisiveness among many residents.

In the months of GPICA's move toward incorporation, MCA has sought to bring unbiased clarity, conformity to the process, and attempted to inform and educate all island residents of the incorporation process. The pros and cons have been explored by presenting a diverse group of speakers and this is ongoing today. To date speakers at MCA meetings have been: 1. Noel Andress - Village of Matlacha-Pine Island Power Point Presentation (not available on the GPICA website) 2. Mayor Chris Sante of Islamorada for his 20 years of insight on incorporation. 3. Greg Stuart - Urban Planner, discussed "Case Against Incorporation" 4. Jamie Keiling "Impact of Incorporation on Flood Insurance and FEMA requirements" and 5. Upcoming March 21 (please all attend) Lynn Tipton, executive director Florida League of Cities promises much great information.

To date, in review, MCA has learned the following: Mr. Mazurkiewicz's feasibility study states a "New Prototype (experimental) Government-Lite" form of government will be required due to and acknowledging an inadequate tax base for incorporation; due to low tax base, average and below average income homeowners will be forced off island due to need to increase taxes (Pg.11); Current District One map boundaries indicate that Matlacha, will always be outvoted 6,000 to 600 by Pine Island, with inability to elect any council member from its own island, never be able to dictate how own tax money is spent and no control over ordinances enacted by the Village Council controlled by the Pine Island majority - parking, eminent domain issues, code enforcement, waste water and runoff, etc.; Mayor Sante stated that he himself will be displaced from Islamorada due to unaffordability of yearly increased taxation and that the Islamorada budget grew from $4 million in year one to $172 million in 20 years for a population of 7,000 people similar to Pine Island and Matlacha. Mr. Stuart confirmed that an insufficient tax base makes incorporating unfeasible and points out that the original feasibility study did not account for a catastrophic event such as hurricane recovery by the new city; also pointed out - Mr. Mazurkiewicz's Fire District revenue was included in "general revenue" budgeting skewing feasibility projections. Ms. Keiling stated upon incorporation a 25 percent increase for flood insurance premiums was sure to occur and greater FEMA scrutiny and compliance would likely occur to insure participation in the National Flood Insurance Program. Without FEMA compliance, mortgage loans can be accelerated, forced insurance put in place and banks will not loan money to buyers for purchase of local area homes. The Matlacha Civic Association will continue to seek additional unbiased sources of information in our quest to determine the correct path. We urge all residents to follow this issue closely, attend your local civic meetings. GPICA will be drafting the new charter in four upcoming meetings with the first on March 15; this will be the last and only time to voice your concerns as GPICA will finalize and again lobby state representatives to push incorporation. Please follow MCA on Face Book: @MCASTRONG to view past speaker talks and future happenings. Based on our information and fact-finding efforts; currently, the MCA Board of Directors feel incorporation will be tantamount to an annexation of Matlacha by Pine Island with no "Home Rule" as GPICA seeks for itself.

The majority of the MCA Board of Directors directly oppose incorporation with opinion that incorporation is not in the best interest of our islands.

Karl R. Deigert, B.Sc. Pharmacy

President, Matlacha Civic Association

 
 

 

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