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Expansion plans

Matlacha Civic reacts to D&D property project -- three possible options presented to Cape City Council

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Feb 23, 2021

GRAPHIC PROVIDED Expansion plans for land leased by D&D Bait and Tackle Shop were discussed at the last Matlacha Civic Association meeting. The city of Cape Coral owns the land. Three options for the site were discussed at the Feb. 10 Cape Coral City Council meeting.

At the February meeting of the Matlacha Civic Association, expansion plans for the land leased by D&D Bait and Tackle Shop were discussed. The city of Cape Coral owns the land, which the city failed to annex.

According to Mike Hannon, who helped fight the legal battle for Matlacha in the annexation case, there is no guarantee the bait shop will stay on after expansion plans are completed, depending on which site option is chosen. Three options for the site were previously discussed at the Feb. 10 Cape Coral City Council meeting.

“What does this mean for us?” said Hannon. “Well, Cape Coral still owns the land, but it’s subject to Lee County laws as well as Lee County taxation and it is fully taxed to Lee County at the current time.”

Hannon cited Statute 418.02, enacted by Florida Legislature, which once allowed the governing body of a municipality or a county to purchase land for the purpose of recreation. He contends that this statute conflicts with Florida’s constitution, which he says does not permit a municipality to use tax dollars to invest in land outside of a legitimate municipal purpose. He went on to say that this statute was repealed in 2012, on the grounds that buying land outside of ones own municipality defeats the purpose.

“Cape Coral has owned this property since 2012 in violation of the Florida Constitution because they are holding it for investment purposes,” said Hannon, who also contends the city is trying to maximize its investment on the property, by increasing the number of boats charged to launch from the site, as well as incoming revenue from a possible restaurant there. Although this particular statute has been repealed, he said, section 418.20 remains.

“This statute,” he read, “each municipality and county in the state is authorized to create one or more recreation districts comprising the whole of, or any part of the territory of said municipality — and by counties, only in the unincorporated areas of each county. Where does this permit a municipality to create a recreation district? Only within its boundaries.”

According to Hannon this would not permit Cape Coral to turn Matlacha into a recreation district, however, it might permit the county to do so. Under the provisions of the rest of the statute, he said, the county would have to pass an ordinance subject to challenge by anyone who lives there. The city of Cape Coral, Hannon said, has indicated that it is going to ask the Cape Coral group, Waterway Advisory Council, to submit an opinion regarding the site proposal.

The first meeting of this group is scheduled for 1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25, in Cape Coral City Council chambers, Hannon said.

“I intend to appear and tell them that they should advise the city of Cape Coral that their ownership of this land is unconstitutional and their continuation to hold it for land development purposes and to make money is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars and that they should sell it, give it to someone, give it to us, or give it to the county,” Hannon said.

There was also concern expressed for any land on Pine Island that the city of Cape Coral may try to purchase in the future. The Matlacha Civic Association will post more information as it becomes available to it Facebook page.