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Mayor proposes withdrawal from planning council

By Staff | Aug 13, 2011

Mayor John Sullivan wants Cape Coral to pull out of the Regional Planning Council to save the $50,000 fee.

Sullivan said the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council -which includes governmental representatives from Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry and Sarasota counties – does not help the city and Cape Coral is wasting its money.

“We have two county commissioners that represent us and if we have an issue we can go to a meeting and speak during public comment,” Sullivan said. “It’s a waste of money.”

With the Department of Community Affairs – which previously handled land use changes and cases on a state level – nearly a thing of the past, County Commissioner John Manning stressed the onus for land use and planning is now squarely on the shoulders of local governments.

As one of the Cape’s representatives on the Board of County Commissioners, Manning said he’d like to see the city stay the course with the Regional Planning Council.

“I would hate to see them leave. I think they have a stake in the growth and planning of the region,” Manning said.

The city of Cape Coral has a presence on not only the Regional Planning Council but several boards throughout the county, including the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Horizon Council and the Tourist Development Council.

Many of the functions that the RPC serves – which provides planning and inter-governmental coordination – already are being conducted through the city’s relationships with other similar organizations, according to Councilmember Marty McClain.

Many of the services are duplicated, he said, and a certain amount of redundancy exists between the functions of the RPC and the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Like the mayor, McClain wonders what the city is actually getting for its $50,000 in annual dues.

“If you would have asked me a year ago I would have said absolutely not, we should still be part of the planning council,” McClain said. “Now I’m having difficulty getting my arms around what the true value of that membership is.”

Liz Donley, interim executive director for the Regional Planning Council, declined comment.

Councilman Kevin McGrail hoped the Regional Planning Council might have had another effect on the city, one that would help to direct or drive businesses into Cape coral.

McGrail doesn’t think it’s worth the money unless the city starts seeing some added benefit.

“Anything short of immediate support for jump starting our business community, it’s a lot of money to simple have a seat at the table,” McGrail said.