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Moratoriums on car washes, self-storage facilities, approved

Cape Coral’s business community comes out against pause on permits as city looks to study possible land code changes

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Apr 18, 2024

Cape Coral City Council approved controversial moratoriums on new self-storage and car washes Wednesday while business leaders continued their contention that the permitting pauses would be bad for business and is likely illegal.

The moratorium on storage facilities passed 7-1 with Councilmember Richard Carr dissenting.

The moratorium on car washes passed unanimously.

Mark Morris, commercial broker, and real estate advisor for VIP real estate, who represents Miller Valentine — the purchaser and developer of property on Burnt Store Road and Embers Parkway — told Council it should not ignore the free market.

“My client is well-established, well-funded, national developer,” he said. “You are all trying and begging for national developers to come in here and build commercial. They are prepared to put $12 million into the City of Cape Coral. I advise you all to be careful of the signal you send to national developers. The signal you are sending to national developers right now with potential moratorium could be devastating.”

Councilmember Richard Carr made a motion to deny ordinance 15-24, the moratorium for self-storage facilities, which failed for any lack of support.

Carr also asked later if the city could shorten the moratorium on car washes to less than a year.

“I am not comfortable with the year duration. The shorter we can make it is the best way moving forward,” he said.

Both bans subsequently passed.

The moratoriums will expire on Jan. 17, 2025, “the reasonable period of time needed for staff to study, and determine what remedial legislation and new or amended Land Development Codes are essential” to mitigate what the city says is a proliferation of these types of facilities. Other types of businesses are also needed and car washes and self-storage facilities are taking up a disproportionate amount of the city’s undeveloped commercial sites, city officials said

According to the ordinances, the city will not accept or consider “applications for the issuance of development permits, building permits, site plan approvals, and other official action during the time period that the moratorium is in effect.

There is an exception, however, for “construction, repair, or rebuilding of self-storage facilities in existence prior to April 17, 2024, for which approved development permits, building permits, site plan approvals, and any other official action by the city have been obtained.”

Many council members said they were conflicted about the pause because they believe in the free market. They also said they understand of the need for self-storage facilities as many multi-family units not providing a lot of space.

“One of the things that made a difference for me in this ordinance is it is truly defined as a pause,” Councilmember Bill Steinke said. “When you look at the extent and length of time of the ordinance it is give a date certain, but it also says upon adoption of an ordinance revising the land development code would be a date to end as well.”

He said the pause is to stop for a moment and “let’s see where we are and where we should be.” With that said, Steinke said his conflict comes from letting the free market go and, if the market dries up and they go belly up, shame on the developer.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard said what troubled him was the amount of commercial property left and the important needs of the city.

“There might be other things that are more important, and that is what scares me. My job is to protect the needs of the citizens,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President and CEO Donna Germain said the city’s largest business organization was not in favor of the moratoriums as they stand with private property rights.

She read into the record a position paper the chamber prepared and sent to Council in advance of its votes.

“The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral is a champion for business and advocate for community within the City of Cape Coral and believes it is our responsibility to oppose issues that create a negative impact on private property rights and the business community and its right to a free market,” Germain read. “The Chamber also recognizes and supports the Burt Harris Act. Florida is a state that provides relief to private landowners when a law, regulation, or ordinance inordinately burdens, restricts, or limits private property without amounting to a taking under the U.S Constitution. The State of Florida enacted the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act in 1995, which provides a specific process for landowners to seek relief when their property is unfairly affected by government action.”

She also cited Senate Bill 250, section 14, which states that “a county or municipality located entirely or partially within 100 miles of where either Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole made landfall shall not propose or adopt any moratorium on construction, reconstruction, or redevelopment of any property damaged by Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole.”