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Cape Council discusses possible park at city-owned D&D site

By Staff | May 19, 2020

The Cape Coral City Council revisited its city-owned D&D property in Matlacha Monday, taking into consideration the severe dearth of boat ramps in the Cape.

It appears that simply selling the property is not an option, the elected board was told at its workshop and the city may so want to pursue a public-private partnership and develop the acreage as a waterfront park.

Mike Ilczyszyn, senior manager at Public Works, gave a presentation that showed the city is seriously deficient in boat ramps, a problem that will only become worse as the city continues to grow.

Using the measure of one salt water boat ramp per 10,000 residents, Cape Coral has 10 ramps in a city approaching a population of 200,000. There currently are only two ramps in the design phase. At buildout, the city’s population is estimated at 400,000 people.

Ilczyszyn presented three scenarios: making the parcel a public park, with or without a P3 option; sell it “as is” to a developer; or entering into a long-term lease with a partner.

If the city were to sell, the property as-is is appraised at a little more than $4 million. The property was purchased in 2012 as part of a $13 million land acquisition by the city that also included the Seven Islands acreage.

The city wanted to annex the Matlacha parcel into the city limits. However, a judge last September quashed the city’s annexation ordinance from 2016, sending the annexation bid back to Council, giving the Matlacha Civic Association, which challenged the annexation, at least a short-term victory.

According to a city census taken that ended May 12, most of the boaters who use the D&D ramp come from Cape Coral. Of the 792 boats that visited the ramp, 57 percent were from Cape Coral.

By placing a P3 option there, the city could garner additional revenue as it does now though its current lease with D&D.

Councilmember John Gunter spoke to the current arrangement and said there may be room for movement there as well.

“We get 30 percent of the boat ramp fees while D&D gets the rest. I would never make that deal,” Gunter said. “That’s a good deal for them and we need to take a look at that.”

Councilmember Marilyn Stout was supportive of a public-private partnership, as was Gunter. Councilmember John Carioscia, who originally didn’t want to invest in a place where city improvement wasn’t wanted, decided to accommodate the city residents.

Mayor Joe Coviello said he wanted to start work to fix up the property and make it look nice as a park, not as a high rise or a Publix like many in Matlacha thought would go there.

“We keep dragging this along. The land is in a beautiful location and it’s just a patch of dirt,” Coviello said. “We need to move forward and put in seawalls and parking and give resident s access to the water.”

The city also continued its discussion on the search for a new city manager. The finalists will be interviewed over the course of two days, with the first component being one-on-one interviews, and the second being in front of the entire Council, similar to the approach taken when John Szerlag was hired in 2012.

The date will either be the first or second week of June, on a Thursday and Friday. The council can either make its decision after the Council interviews or think about it over the weekend, possible turning the scheduled June 15 workshop meeting into a special meeting.

Colin Baenziger suggested they hold the interviews next Thursday and Friday to give Council time to negotiate a contract and approve it before hiatus.

Coviello said he preferred June 4-5 or June 11-12 so the city does not have to cram to bring the candidates in.

The city’s Council-selected finalists are:

* Anne Fritz: Chief Financial Officer for the City of St. Petersburg, (population 260,999) since 2010. Has worked as finance director for 30 years in Florida and Ohio.

* Rob Hernandez: Deputy City Manager for Fort Lauderdale (population 182,595). Was city manager of Savannah, Ga. from 2016-19.

* Rob Perry: Most recently worked for the City of Albuquerque, NM (population 560,218). He was the Chief Administrative Officer for seven years and the City Attorney for one year. Was Secretary of Corrections for the state of N.M. from 1997-2002.

* Kenny Young: Most recently worked for Loudoun County, VA (population 413,538). He was the Assistant County Administrator for five years and a Senior Project Manager for three years.

* Leonard Sossamon: Most recently County Administrator for Hernando County (population 186,553) for seven years. Was city manager for 13 years in Concord, N.C. from 1985-98.