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Settle down, Cape has no plans to become ‘Miami West’

By Staff | Nov 13, 2019

To the editor:

I have sat quietly while numerous uninformed commentators have ripped the Cape Coral City Council’s actions over the purchase and uses of the former Thieman owned land in the City, obtained at auction in 2012. After reading yet another long-winded letter from Matlacha resident and attorney Michael Hannon I can’t sit quiet any longer.

First, the land was purchased for $13.3 million as an “all or none” block package, which means it could not be parceled out for purchase. The funds came from stormwater and utilities budgets for future use and development. My over-riding reason for supporting the purchase in 2012 was because several large pieces of the purchase were located along Burnt Store Road. This roadway is currently being improved as the multilane evacuation route for hurricanes as we envisioned. Why would we NOT pay “pennies on the dollar” for land we had to have anyway? To wait until someone bought the properties for land speculation would have exponentially increased the cost and time to build that vitally important road. (This will serve as the primary evacuation route for Matlacha, Pine Island, and Cape Coral residents should the need arrive at some time in the future).

Second, we knew the parcels included in the package located in St. James City were not contiguous to Cape Coral so we had staff sell them at cost, a great deal for some developer at that time. We kept the 5.6 acres adjacent to the Cape Coral City limit since it was a perfect location for boaters in our City. At the time I envisioned it as a Yacht Club north kind of property.

Jump to 2016, Cape Coral has watched property values skyrocket and the “extra” properties in the parcel like the Seven Islands, Crystal Lake, and the 5.6 acre unincorporated Lee County property located near Matlacha have all become a major focus for development. Remember, in 2012 we spent $13.3 million and were excoriated by short-sighted visionaries with their own agendas at the time. Today the Seven Islands are appraised at $16.8 million, the Crystal Lake parcel at $8 million, and the controversial property adjacent and contiguous to Cape Coral at $3.6 million. All the right-of-way properties we obtained along Burn Store Road, that we had to have, add another $10-$15 million to that total. Perhaps now even Mr. Hannon can see the wisdom of that purchase. In my opinion it was the best $13.3 million the City of Cape Coral has ever spent.

Finally, let’s take a look at what is happening now. Cape Coral has never planned nor wants to plan the “Miami West” Mr. Hannon fear mongers in his letter of Nov 1, 2019. His numerous lawsuits have just delayed the future development plans for the City of Cape Coral owned property.

He seeks legal fees in another suit of “$65,000 to $130,000.”

He follows that up with an equally skewed version of Judge Kyle’s ruling pertaining to the annexation vote. The judge kicked it back to City Council, since it should have been a “quasi-judicial” hearing. This requires swearing in of speakers and allowing testimony on both sides of the issue before the vote, This was not done by Council in 2016 and should have been.

That was a mistake from our attorney’s advice on how to proceed, NOT the legality of the actual land purchase or the subsequent Council vote for annexation in 2016. This time the City has deferred to experts on process and Florida Law. I sincerely hope the outcome is in the City’s favor.

My wish is for Mr. Hannon and the Matlacha residents to calm down, quit the unending lawsuits, and stop demonizing Cape Coral. I was on Council from 2009 to 2013 and can say unequivocally, we NEVER had nor saw any plans to annex Matlacha or Pine Island. We bought a property in unincorporated Lee County that is adjacent and contiguous to Cape Coral. To expect us to “give” it to Matlacha or not develop it for our citizens is ridiculous. It is like a neighbor who insists the field you bought next to your home must remain a field forever, because we said so! Quite simply, we bought it and we own it. If and when we develop it according to City of Cape Coral, Lee County, and Florida Law is not contingent upon Mr. Hannon or the unelected Matlacha Civic Association Board’s approval.

Kevin McGrail

Cape Coral