Be careful what you ask for
Cape Coral City Council on Monday will again consider bringing six lots the municipality owns in Matlacha into the city limits.
The annexation do-over for the 5.37-acre site is coming before Council again because the city badly bungled its first attempt by failing to follow the proper procedure for a voluntary annexation: Treating the matter as legislative rather than holding a quasi-judicial proceeding with sworn witnesses and expert testimony before the Council vote.
Some residents on Matlacha and a handful here in the Cape immediately filed for a judicial review and, in September, Circuit Court Judge Keith R. Kyle “quashed” the annexation ordinance the city passed in 2016. He ruled the ordinance “is not supported by sufficient competent, substantial evidence and because the Court cannot confirm whether the essential requirements of law were observed.”
With a new 92-page consultant-prepared report and the proper process notice in place, the city is better prepared for its second bite at the apple.
As well it should be, as opposition in Matlacha remains vehement with another challenge all but a given.
This is unfortunate, not only for Cape taxpayers who are now going to pay twice, but for islanders whose hope is for preservation of what they call the gateway to Matlacha.
A couple of things.
Rift rumors to the contrary, the city of Cape Coral has no plans to foster development of the site into “a resort” or “high rises” or a density-intense commercial project.
Believe us, many of our north Cape residents are as adamantly opposed to what they call “Miami West” development as the stanchest opposition on Matlacha or Pine Island. Heck, we have many here in the Cape who make Sanibelians look pro-development.
What Council has approved for the property is sparse but, we agree, appropriate: boat ramps, parking and a possible public-private partnership with a restaurant similar to what the city has with the Boathouse at the Yacht Club.
That’s it and no, we are not naive and think plans are promises carved in stone, but the best shot at a park and minimal development lies in annexation now so the project already approved has the greatest chance of moving forward.
Especially with some Cape residents, including some eyeing a Council run in 2020, saying the city’s best bet is to sell the property to get it back on the tax rolls.
Understand: This is a prime waterfront parcel on Pine Island Road with county land use and zoning already in place that allows for a whole lot of things Matlacha residents might like much less than a city park with boat ramps.
What’s allowed under county zoning should the city opt to sell instead of moving forward with annexation or simply developing the site as proposed in co-operation with Lee County, a third option?
Within unincorporated Lee County’s “Urban Community” land use and Commercial C-1A and C-2 zoning, there are a multitude of allowable uses for the site, varying by lot. Permitable uses include single and multi-family residential as well as a plethora of commercial options — automotive services including parts stores, repair and service shops and service station with convenience store; bait and boating facilities, including the bait and tackle shop already on the site along with boat parts stores and rental and sale facilities; car washes; cold storage warehouse and processing plant; mini-warehouses and virtually every kind of store, shop and restaurant, including fast food with drive-thru, as well as a variety of professional offices and services.
Our wager if Council throws its hands up and this land is placed on the market?
Multi-family or a “boat-barn” type commercial complex.
Pretty much Matlacha’s worst fears.
So let’s be blunt for those islanders who view the Cape as an apple-bearing serpent eyeing their Garden of Eden: Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
We suggest another look at what the city has on the table.
And we advise those opposed to annexation to be careful what they ask for.
Agree? Disagree? Take the poll on the Cape Coral Breeze website: www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com/page/polls.detail/id/590/Should-Cape-Coral-again-attempt-to-make-land-it-owns-outside-the-city-limits-in-Matlacha-part-of-the-Cape-.html