Cape land use changes transmitted to state
In one of the most emotionally charged meetings in years, the Cape Coral City Council on Monday split 5-3 to approve the transmittal of numerous amendments to the city’s Future Land Use Map.
At issue were major changes on how vacant parcels may be developed in the future with nearby residents protesting such things as increased density, a hot button.
Residents from the so-called “Four Corners” neighborhood packed the gallery, concerned that the Future Land Use map as proposed could result in high density housing projects going up at the corners of Agualinda Boulevard and Beach Parkway with up to many as 510 units allowed.
The crowd grew irate after Mayor Joe Coviello was misunderstood by many when they were asked before public input to hold their comments on Four Corners to the public hearing portion of the meeting.
Some thought their opinions would not be heard at all, possibly because it was their first time at a city council meeting. Tempers got so heated that the mayor called a recess to calm things down and to bring back those who left in a huff.
Once the hearing began, a group of residents, led by Randy Landers, gave their presentation, which was read by several fellow residents to save time. They said high-density multi-family housing would have a negative impact on traffic, schools and infrastructure, reduce property values and lead to an increase in crime.
Virtually everyone spoke in favor of at least allowing the original land use, for a total of 264 units to be built on all but the southwest corner.
“We have an identity. There’s a reason people want to live in Cape Coral. It’s the life they choose,” Dan Sheppard said. “We’re all invested here with the image. And we don’t want that image to change.”
There were some who believed the properties could be developed as single family, like nearly all the parcels in that area are. Council members agreed that was not likely.
“We have no control of what is there. People purchased the (corners) property a certain way,” Councilmember John Carioscia said. “If we were to make it single family, we would be in court and we would lose.”
Councilmember John Gunter added that while Four Corners was by far the most represented, it was not the only area to be affected by pending land use and zoning changes.
“This is not an isolated incident. There are several parcels of land with the same problem,” Gunter said. “I can’t support this because it’s one isolated area. I support some but not others. We need to talk about this.”
Council members Jennifer Nelson and David Stokes agreed, saying the map needed to be looked at as a whole. They, along with Gunter, opposed the measure after Councilmember Rick Williams called the question, ending the debate after several hours.
Among those potentially affected was John Jacobs, president of the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association, who is facing the possibility of intersections on Old Burnt Store Road being turned into commercial nodes, something he spoke about on a similar ordinance earlier in the meeting.
“They made a big mistake mixing everything together. This is going to create havoc across the city. Four Corners overshadowed everything, but when the rest of the neighborhoods wake up to this, which is developer driven, there will be many more meetings like this,” Jacobs said.
Another person representing Coral Lakes came to give a short presentation on the impact land use changes would have on her area.
After transmittal, state and regional agencies have 30 days to review and make comments or recommendations.
The city then will get it back. From there, it has up to 180 days to make whatever changes it sees fit and adopt the amendment, which could mean many opportunities for more public input.
Landers said the result was about as good as it was going to get, and that the fight for single-family housing there isn’t over.
“It was what he hoped the best for. We came out of this a little ahead of the game. We could have been looking at something in the four-story range,” Landers said. “We’re trying to get an idea of what the city’s liability really is if it’s switched. We’re trying to find a win-win for us and the city.”