SWOT report discussed at Civic meeting
Tuesday night, May 2, the Greater Pine Island Civic Association was provided update on the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) report presented by BJM President Joe Mazurkiewicz. The purpose of a SWOT report is to identify current conditions to be considered for (or against) incorporation.
Following Cape Coral’s recent annexation of six property lots on Matlacha, members of the GPICA decided to explore the pros and cons of incorporation. Incorporation, according to GPICA members, would protect the islands from all further annexations.
BJM is a firm that specializes in studying local government activities. GPICA hired Mazurkiewicz and BJM to conduct a study to determine whether incorporation is viable. His firm has completed incorporation studies for Pelican Bay, Fort Myers Beach, Golden Gate, Bonita Springs, Boca Grande, Cape Haze, Lehigh Acres, Ruskin, Captiva and Tierra Verde.
“I wanted to give Pine Islanders an opportunity to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to consider whether or not to incorporate,” GPICA President Roger Wood said. “This process will help islanders decide whether to proceed with the next step of creating a local self-ruled government.”
“The SWOT analysis is probably the most important part of the process,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It’s there to give you the citizens a complete and comprehensive snapshot of what you’re looking at today and what you’re looking at in the future.”
The report identified Pine Island and Matlacha as “coastal-rural communities made up mostly of middle income families.”
The islands have great environmental and cultural opportunities with lots of boating and water access as well as conservation areas for wildlife, he said. There is commercial fishing and aquaculture on the island.
“Most importantly, members of the community care about their island and community,” Mazurkiewicz said.
Other strengths listed include the many civic organizations, community service organizations, an independent water association and the fire district.
Thirty-eight weakness were listed in the report, including: traffic issues through Matlacha, poor political representation, limited tax base due to agricultural exemptions and hundreds of mobile homes and a fragmented community due to a large population of season residents. The island also faces drug related crime, aged and failing septic systems and no defense against (future) annexations.
Among the opportunities listed are: increase in property values, control new development, further development of aqua culture, expand the golf cart road system to reduce car traffic, opportunities to preserve and that votes on incorporation have been historically supported by members of the local delegation to the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate.
Incorporation, the report states, would allow Pine island to determine the levels of service desired for the community rather than relying on outside boards (County Commissioners) or other elected officials.
“Incorporation would give Pine Island ‘home rule’ powers with a local government located within the community,” Mazurek-wice said. “A local government could react to citizens’ concerns much sooner than the existing situation.”
There are numerous threats to be considered, the report sates: continued encroachment by Cape Coral, increase taxes and fees, future changes in the Pine Island Plan governed by changing politics of the Board of County Commission, members and Leadership in the Florida House of Representatives are reluctant to create new cities, further restricted traffic flow through Matlacha from Pine Island (effects emergency, fire and medical transportation times), degrading water quality, big money developers and real estate speculators will finance candidates’ election campaigns and revise the Pine Island Plan, aging infrastructure and liability lawsuits (if the islands incorporate).
GPICA president Roger Wood suggested creating a mailer to be sent to registered Pine Island/Matlacha voters to determine whether GPICA should proceed with the incorporation.
Commissioner Director report
on M/PICARD lawsuit
Fire Commissioner Michael Dreikorn provided an update on the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District lawsuit against the annexation.
“Last December when Cape Coral annexed those lots on Matlacha, a bunch of us Pine Islanders went to the Cape Coral City Council meeting,” Dreikorn said. “Basically the council wasn’t interested in anything we had to say and voted to approve the annexation. That led us to explore what we could do next.”
Dreikorn then decided to set up a meeting with the County Commissioners. Only one commissioner, Cecil Pendergrass, agreed to meet and arranged a meeting with the county attorney, who agreed with Cape Coral’s “right” to annex the properties.
“Next we looked into how the only taxing authority on Pine Island, the Fire Control District, could fight this,” Dreikorn said. “We learned that with the 164 action the M/PIFCD could file a lawsuit that is a three tiered process. First we meet with a facilitator. That occurred in January and we agreed that within 90 days we, the M/PIFCD, would create an inter-local settlement agreement and we had that finished in 30 days and presented it to Cape Coral. They have 90 days to respond.”
The Inter-local Agreement sent to the City of Cape Coral proposes:
n The city agrees to respect the sovereignty of the district.
n The city will provide notification to the district of any proposed annexation of properties within the boundaries of the district.
n The city will not annex property owned by it or under contract for purchase by it that is within the boundaries of the district for the next 98 years.
n The city will work with the district’s appropriate personnel toward improvement and coordination of fire control/protection and first responder/emergency services on an ongoing basis. This will include meeting at least quarterly to discuss means and methods of providing services of mutual benefit.
n The city will pay to the district a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) representing the amount of ad valorem that would have been paid to the district by a private commercial entity.
n The city will retain the existing property development regulations and uses for a period of 98 years.
n The city will notify and invite district input on rezoning or other land use proposals.
n The city shall ensure any future rezoning of the subject properties shall not adversely impact vehicle traffic flow.
n The city will allow unrestricted access to water utilities.
“The ideal solution would be to reverse the annexation,” Dreikorn said. “They will have to respond by the middle of May. This is a document that can go back and forth for quite some time and is not written in stone – this is only the first draft. If this fails, then we go to mediation with Cape Coral and if that fails we file a lawsuit.”
Second lawsuit update
Concerning a second lawsuit filed by the Matlacha Civic Association, Michael Hannon offered an update.
The hearing on Cape Coral’s “motion to dismiss” is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at 10 a.m. before Magistrate Judge Kimberly Davis Bocelli in Courtroom 4-D, 20th Judicial Circuit-Lee County Justice Center, 1700 Monroe St., 4th Floor, Fort Myers. Bocelli will hear argument on Cape Coral’s motion to dismiss and make a recommendation to Circuit Judge Keith R. Kyle who will have the final word.
Islanders were urged to please make plans to attend.
those interested can check Pine Island Strong’s Facebook page for information about the lawsuit.
All GPICA meetings are open to the public at no charge. Meetings are held at the Elks on Pine Island Road, west of Stringfellow, on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Join or renew membership for $10/per person annual fee. Contact Wood at 920-421-3984.