Election 2022: Candidate Question of the Week – Cape Coral Yacht Club complex
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week’s Question of the Week is How would you summarize your position on the city’s plans to upgrade the Cape Coral Yacht Club complex?
The 2022 municipal election for Cape Coral City Council features four races — the seats for mayor and Districts 1, 4 and 6. While candidates must live in the district they seek to represent, Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan, citywide races, meaning every registered Cape voter, no matter their party affiliation or city address, may cast a ballot in every race in both the primary and general election.
Races with more than two qualifying candidates are placed on the primary ballot, which this year will be held Aug. 23 with Seats 1 & 4 on the ballot. The two primary candidates receiving the most votes in each race will then be candidates in the City General Election which also will include the District 6 seat and the race for mayor. (If there are fewer than three qualifying candidates in any a given race, their names will not appear on the primary election ballot. They will appear on the City General Election ballot only.)
Here are this week’s responses:
Primary Elections races: Cape Coral City Council Districts 1 & 4
• Dr. Carol Rae Culliton
The city’s original plans and upgrades are based on a 2006 residents survey. Since that survey, there has been a 30+% turnover in yacht club area residents. The current plan calls for the closure of the area, including the beach and yacht club for approximately two years. The exception is the Boat House Restaurant will remain open. The yacht club and beach area is well visited and is a destination for many locals and tourists all year. It may be time to pause the yacht club project and conduct a new survey. Then come up with new plans and financing that will meet voter approval. Original funding was part of the GO Bond and was transferred to other parks projects. The yacht club ballroom was not included in the original plans.
• Jean Pierre Etcheverry Jr
I am a supporter of the city’s improvement plan to upgrade the Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park. The current layout of the Cape Coral Yacht Club Community Park once spoke and met the needs of residents and the community; however, those needs have changed. While improvement projects require resources and time, residents and community outcomes may include a heightened quality of life, contribution to a sense of community, and a step toward enhancing equity. Furthermore, I am an advocate of the Yacht Club Park improvement project because the project aligns with the city’s vision, mission, values, and priorities.
• Bill Steinke
Well, no one likes inconvenience, although this year is the Yacht Club’s 60th anniversary! While maintenance has been done over the years to some degree, the facility is in need of rehabilitation. Seawalls and docks are much easier to rehab while they are standing rather than collapsed and with increased population, publicity and usage, the entire facility needs to be able to accommodate more residents and visitors than ever before. It needs to be completed as expeditiously as possible with as little intrusion to day-to-day life as possible.
• Ally Wharton
I support investing in the much-needed upgrade. The faculty is 60 years old and has potential to bring a great benefit to residents, visitors and business alike. It’s an exciting opportunity to invest in our future. Originally planned as a community center and focal point of the community, it’s great to see it return to its original serving roots.
• Joshua B. Clark
The City of Cape Coral is currently waiting on federal and local waterway permits to start construction on our Yacht Club project. I believe the upgrade to one of our most historical areas in Cape Coral will be a positive outcome for our community.
• Patty Cummings
This project has already been voted on to move forward from the previous council members. A lot of money has already been spent on this project. The hold up has been the permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.
• Jennifer I. Nelson, incumbent
I am looking forward to the upcoming improvements to our Yacht Club park complex. Staff had many meetings with residents and council regarding the proposed changes based on community input that began in 2019. The parking garage, the new location of the boat ramp, and the much-needed renovation of the yacht club building were all discussed. I am in support of the city being able to complete the work in phases vs closing the entire complex down for two years. I understand the safety challenges with performing the shoreline re-nourishment piece and agree during that work, no one should be allowed onsite due to the heavy equipment involved. I look forward to residents and visitors being able to enjoy this new and improved historic amenity.
General Election Ballot:
• John Gunter, incumbent
The Parks Go Bond allocated 10.9 of the 60 million dollars for the minimum improvements outlined for the Yacht Club.
Within the last 18 months staff and our design firm has also identified some infrastructure needs within the Yacht Club that need to be addressed. These infrastructure needs are seawall replacement, dock replacement, and + management improvements. Additionally, there has been further discussions of a need for additional parking at this facility.
Presently, we have applied for State and Federal permits needed for this project and are waiting on a reply from these two agencies. They will outline the scope of work required to complete the infrastructure improvements but more importantly give us the information needed for bidding purposes to determine the cost of these additional improvements. I do support the minimum improvements listed within the Parks Go Bond that was approved by our voters. Once we receive all the necessary information from State and Federal authorities, we will be able to determine a cost projection for any additional improvements at the Yacht Club. I need a current cost analysis and how are we going to fund any additional improvements before I can support any decision moving forward with additional construction at this facility.
• Tom Shadrach
The Yacht Club plan is an unmitigated failure. We don’t need to completely shut down this community treasure. It is the only public beach, pier, pool, and tennis courts for our residents. Enhancements must be done in phases to minimize impacts to our residents and they should never be required to pay-to-park. The $11M allocated from the Parks GO bonds to the Yacht Club was removed by the Council (consent item) without discussion. Why? What were they hiding? The new parks under the GO bond are grossly over cost and way behind schedule. I will get them back on track.
• Wayne Hecht
In speaking with taxpayers of Cape Coral the feedback has been overwhelmingly against the City spending any more money on the Yacht Club construction project, whether it be by additional bond issuance or using funds allocated to other public works projects. If residents continue to oppose spending additional money on the Yacht Club, that is my directive.
Public recreation projects like the Yacht Club are important to our residents and a review of the original bond budget, vendor bids/awards and current delay issues are required. I would look for alternatives that keep the project in line with the current budget, which could include renovations instead of rebuilds, and a reduced initial scope that takes into account the rising construction costs.
What is clear is that we need to begin this project as soon as possible before inflation and the continued supply chain issues push the costs even higher. If more money is to be spent on this project, it should be put to a vote by our residents.
Finally, if the planned parking garage gets built there should be no parking fees.
• Keith Long, incumbent
The Yacht Club project has garnered much attention lately — and for good reason. It is one of this City’s original landmarks and continues to be a focal point of our community. While I was not in office during the project’s inception, I was in support of the original project as proposed. The scope has since grown exponentially, due to input received for unanticipated requirements on the buildout. As such–the cost has also significantly increased. The City is currently in a holding pattern while we wait for various agencies to provide permits and further input on the project proposals. Once we receive this feedback, we will then have the full scope of the project in front of the Council which will then be able to make an informed decision on its future.
• Primary Election: Tuesday, Aug. 23
• Deadline to request that a Vote-by-Mail Ballot to be mailed: 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13
• Early Voting for the Primary: Saturday, Aug. 13, to Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.
• General Election: Tuesday, Nov. 8
For more information on the 2022 races and candidates:
• The Breeze will post all of its elections stories here at Capecoralbreeze.com.
• The Cape Coral City Clerk’s Office posts all city-election related documents, including campaign reports at capecoral.gov/department/clerk/Candidatereports.php.
• The Lee County Supervisor of Elections has a wealth of elections-related information concerning registration, voting, dates and candidate lists and documents on its website, lee.vote.
• The League of Women Voters, Lee County offers election-related information on its website, my.lwv.org/florida/lee-county, and plans a Virtual Candidate Forums before the primary.