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Zoning, land use changes spur debate

By Staff | Jan 31, 2019

At the area known as “Four Corners” in the southwest Cape, more than 100 people gathered this week to show their displeasure at a proposed land use and zoning change that could bring more than 500 affordable housing units to their area.

In the northwest Cape, neighbors are worried about what will become of the area along Old Burnt Store Road and whether a land use change will result in dollar stores and pharmacies at major intersections.

And in the southeast Cape, though its highly developed, there are areas along Del Prado Boulevard that had been designated for commercial but are residential that the city needs to consider for consistency’s sake.

All this will make for a potentially very long meeting for the Cape Coral City Council on Monday at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, when the elected board will hold a transmittal hearing for the city’s future land use plan to be sent to the state land planning agency for comment and approval.

Roughly 1,700 acres will be affected citywide. Once that is done, the plan will again go to City Council for the public hearing process, with any changes deemed necessary along the way.

The reason for the comprehensive land use and zoning changes is to, in the words of City Manager John Szerlag, make the building process “fast, fair and predictable.” Much of the zoning and land use designations date back to before the city was incorporated and some properties have land use and zoning designations that don’t match, making it almost impossible for the land to be developed.

City Planner Robert Peterson said there are four elements to this: the zoning code, the zoning maps that match the new zoning districts, text amendments to the comprehensive plan, and the future land use maps as part of the comp plan, which must also change to be consistent with the code.

“All these elements have been reviewed and recommended for approval through the public hearing process by the planning and zoning commission and the hearing examiner,” Peterson said.

“It will facilitate the new code that’s coming in. The four elements have to run simultaneously. We have some CAC (commercial-mixed use) properties that we haven’t done anything with for 15 years,” said Wyatt Daltry. “We’re changing some of those to multi-family or commercial.”

This especially pertains to the Four Corners at Agualinda Boulevard and Beach Parkway, which has become ground zero of this controversy. The four vacant plots on those corners are currently for sale. The city has planned to change the land use from mixed use residential commercial to multi family.

After a large rally/strategy session at the intersection Monday, the group will come to Monday’s meeting with a plan of attack on why city should reject the transmittal plan.

It appears to have one huge ally, city Councilmember John Carioscia, who said he plans to vote no because his constituents on that district don’t want it.

“This will more than double the amount of multi-family housing on those four corners. I want to leave it the way it is,” Carioscia said. “That road won’t handle 500 units and 700 cars. When they bought property, there was a certain zoning in that area. If they don’t want change, they shouldn’t get change.”

In the northwest Cape, the issue isn’t what will be coming on Burnt Store Road but rather Old Burnt Store Road, especially at the corner of major roads that go through there.

John Bashaw, public works specialist for the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association and former president, said he has drilled deep into this and said much of what is being done is the normal course of business.

“This is a growing city and north of Pine Island Road is where most of the problems exist. The old zoning categories don’t fit what the city is going to look like at build out,” Bashaw said, adding that Old Burnt Store and Kismet is a perfect example.

“The southwest corner is zoned agricultural and when you think about a city with potentially 400,000 people in it, that doesn’t make much sense,” Bashaw said. “We’re trying to be reasonable about what will happen.”

It is the main thoroughfare intersections on Old Burnt Store Road (Embers, Tropicana, Yucatan, Gulfstream, and Kismet) that has the NWNA particularly concerned, which will be zoned neighborhood commercial, allowing commercial activities in a neighborhood to make it more convenient for people living there.

“Variety stores, drug stores, gas stations with pumps is possible, even a Dollar General. People don’t want to go to Publix for a dozen eggs, so they can go to the neighborhood store,” Bashar said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow for people who bought vacation homes here in a quiet neighborhood, and the thought of a store going up a block away is problematic.”

John Jacobs, NWNA president, said he has told residents and members to come to the meeting on Monday to be heard.

Councilmember Rick Williams said the future land use plan would open up the possibility of new business and make it easier for developers and investors to build in the district he represents.

“The more controversial ones we will discuss down the road, but everything else they are transmitting I support,” Williams said. “The land use needs updating and it will allow us to be faster and people who build here will know what they are facing.”

Burnt Store Road will also be affected, with changes on the west side of the road from Embers to Tropicana.

On the east side of Embers and Burnt Store, the commercial designation will be changed to a mixture of single family for those without frontage on a major highway and commercial for those that do.

On Diplomat, the intersection will be the commercial, while those away from the intersections will be single family, Daltry said.

The eastern part of the city isn’t going to be impacted too much, especially in the southeast which is mostly developed.

Peterson brought up areas along Del Prado where duplexes have been built on the street alongside the road in one area, while another street has few if any duplexes. He said it would work both ways. If there are opportunities to build commercial along those roads, make it so. If not, keep them residential.

Southeast 15th Place, Southeast 16th Place and Southeast 17th Place on both sides have future commercial professional land use. Years ago, they were all designated for commercial land use in hopes the duplexes would be abandoned and someone would buy the land and assemble them to create a usable piece of property, Peterson said.

But with all the duplexes there, it will never transition to commercial, so it will be made residential. The vacant properties where commercial is possible will be cleaned up so landowners can do something with it.

“Some areas are a jump ball. There is not a clear pattern and no matter what, if you suggest changing it, people will get upset. In that case, we won’t fix them, we’ll leave them as they are or do a calibration ordinance a year from now to address little items. This is the culmination of three years of effort to modernize and streamline our land use regulations to make them easier to understand, more predictable, user-friendly and create more modern planning concepts,” Peterson said.

In the northeast, very little will be done regarding land use changes. some properties near Gator Slough are going to be changed from commercial to multi-family. Navarra and Gator Circle will go from commercial to commercial and residential.