homepage logo

Cape Council to discuss Yacht Club renovations

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 17, 2020

Two years ago, Cape Coral residents voted to tax themselves to pay for a $60 million parks master plan that called for new parks and upgrades at existing facilities.

While the designs for most parks have drawn little to no pushback, others have had their share of controversy.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club may be next.

Nearby residents, who already expressed unhappiness concerning changes affecting the tennis courts, are expected to turn out again on Wednesday when the City Council will hold a workshop to get updates on the upgrades.

“We need to finalize what we’re going to do with the tennis courts, the boat ramp, the parking garage or structure. The entire meeting will be devoted to the Yacht Club,” Mayor Joe Coviello said Thursday. “The great thing about COW meetings is we get to kick around ideas without voting, so we can hear from the people.”

The “committee of the whole” meeting will give staff an idea of in which direction Council wants to proceed.

Kimley-Horn, the designers of the project, are expected to make a presentation.

A main sticking point is the potential for a multi-level parking garage to be built, which would be the largest expense for the park that also will cost the most to renovate.

The three-story garage would cost around $5.6 million and be funded through revenue generating bonds to be paid for from money received from the Boathouse restaurant and the Yacht Basin, thus not costing the taxpayers, officials said.

“We’re going to make it more architecturally pleasing so it’s not like a plain-gray garage like downtown Fort Myers. We’re going to put some color and maybe some sketches so the aesthetics look like the Yacht Club,” said Kerry Runyon, Parks and Recreation director.

Revenue bonds will also pay for the seawalls around the Yacht Club, expected to cost another $6 million to $8 million. The structures haven’t been replaced in nearly 50 years.

There was earlier discussion that, perhaps, there would be a restaurant or even tennis courts placed on top of the garage, which Runyon refuted.

The Yacht Club plans are by far the most ambitious and complicated, featuring an increased beach area, as well as more room for boats and boat parking. Four of the five tennis courts will remain by public demand. A planned roundabout at the entrance has been removed from the concept.

It is expected to cost more than $25 million for the proposed Yacht Club renovation. Funding would include approximately $11 million to $13 million from revenue bonds and $2 million from the voter-approved GO Bond. This is by far the biggest price tag of any park in the $60 million parks master plan for what is the oldest attraction in the city, built during the Cape’s infancy in 1962.

Not much has changed, with the exception of Ford’s Boathouse being built across from the main building through a public-private partnership with the city.

Last year, a workshop for the park’s plan turned into a shouting match as residents were upset with the process. Some said their input was not being heard, with others claiming the city was stacking the deck to approve a parking lot at the expense of the tennis courts.

Parking has been one of the major issues with the Yacht Club, especially during season and whenever an event is held there, such as the Sunset Celebration, which can make things for walkers a little tricky, Runyon said.

Resident Steve Averbach, who was key in keeping most of the tennis courts, is now seeking a solution for the parking without the need for a garage.

Averbach said that while they like most of the plans for the Yacht Club, a parking garage would be ugly, wouldn’t fit in with the neighborhood, and is cost prohibitive, the latter of which he has a solution for.

The idea is to install two parking kiosks, which would charge a fee to non-residents. This would cut down on the need for parking down there while allowing residents to park there for free.

“It’s similar to what they use on Sanibel island, where you park and use your phone or debit card to pay for how long you want to park and you leave the receipt on the dashboard,” Averbach said. “Police can enforce it and fine those who don’t pay or whose time runs out.”

Many come to the Yacht Club because parking is free, and is the only one in Lee County with free parking for the beach. Averbach believes that if people had to pay, they would go elsewhere and the percentage decrease would be enough to resolve the parking issue.

The kiosks could also be used on a trial basis to see if they work. If not, then consider a parking garage, Averbach said.

Runyon said a parking fee at the garage is an option for Council to consider. She also said kiosks might be an option to help generate more revenue to help pay for the parking garage.

“This hasn’t been touched in 50 years. It’s been a long time. People are going to see what this park will look like renovated and structurally sound,” Runyon said.

Coviello said it has not been determined whether city would implement fees for the parking garage.

Cape Coral City Council workshop meetings begin at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.