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Cape prioritizes needs as it seeks disaster recovery funds

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | May 26, 2023

As did Cape Coral's other riverfront communities and neighborhoods, high waters from Hurricane Ian impacted Cape Harbour.

In preparation for submitting its Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding requests, the city of Cape Coral has identified more than $4 billion in unmet needs, a sum far greater than the $1.1 billion thus far allocated to all of Lee County.

Top priorities, listed among various categories, include acquisition of the old golf course acreage for affordable housing; subsidies for utility assessments for low-to-moderate income property owners; emergency water supply wells; a 90,000-square foot-community recreation center that also could serve as a disaster/evacuation shelter to include kennels; a small business incubator; and land acquisition at Yellow Fever Creek.

Mayor John Gunter said it has been a collective effort.

“It was definitely going to be a lot more people to get it across the finish line than me. It gives us a good baseline to start with. We have over $4 billion identified today,” he said Wednesday.

Gunter said if you go back and look at incidences that have this type of funding throughout the nation, HUD has gone back and added more money.

“It’s important to show the need first. When we get that overall number, that will give us the information we need to go and advocate the additional dollars,” he said. “The $1.1 billion (to Lee County) just isn’t enough.”

A memorandum sent to the council by interim City Manager Michael Ilczyszyn, states that the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development made a direct allocation of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding to Lee County in the amount of $1,107,881.

With Council approval, the city adopted the Cape Coral CDBG-DR during Wednesday’s special meeting. To be funded for CDBG-DR, there are four requirements, eligible activity, national objective, which benefits low and moderate income persons and households and urgent need, tieback to Hurricane Ian and unmet recovery need.

Lee County officials are required to build Implementation and Action Plans, which are subject to program rules that are specified in the Allocation Announcement Notice. The county will work with municipalities, community stake holders and residents to design grant eligible programs to ensure the funding is distributed in an impactful way.

The action plan is due by Sept 20, and HUD’s 60 day review and comment period will conclude Nov. 19. The timeline also includes a 30-day public comment period from Aug. 1, through Aug. 31.

That funding, at least 70 percent, will be used for low to moderate income households, which HUD defines as a family at, or below 80 percent of area median income, according to Lee County.

According to backup material from the city of Cape Coral, its unmet needs have a price tag of $4,111,827.23. Projects listed include housing; infrastructure and public facilities and improvements; mitigation; economic development and revitalization; and planning and public services.

There is an estimated 4,455 homeowners of the 59,297 FEMA registrants that are CDBG-DR eligible and received significant damage, most likely leading to unmet needs. The city’s inspection staff estimated that the average cost of repair $54,540, plus 25 percent contingency, was calculated for properties classified as minor damage, major damage and destroyed.

There are also 1,963 renters who fall into the housing unmet needs.

The total housing unmet need is $281,101,320 for owners, $133,827,525 for renters for a total of $414,928,845, according to the city.

To recover the unmet needs, the city proposes a number of programs, including the Single-Family Home Repair and Hardening Program with an recommended allocation of $98,385,462; Attainable Homeownership Program for a recommended allocation of $235,574,555; Attainable Senior Rental Program with a recommended allocation of $66,913,763 and the Down payment Assistance Program & Interest Rate Buydown Program for a recommended allocation of $14,055,065.

The housing projects and programs includes acquisition and rehabilitation of a “contaminated golf course into compact affordable housing mixed with low commercial and greenspace in a planned mobility hub” for an estimated total unmet need of $40,000,000. The description and scope of work includes masterplan, Laura’s project, as Country Club/Palm Tree Boulevard as alternative routes from Cape Coral Parkway. The two stories affordable housing would have commercial development on the lower level.

Also included is a Senior Rental Program that would include a development of multi-family rental housing for low and medium income households. Acquisition of land, and, or construction of units would be needed.

As far as infrastructure the total program estimated costs is $2,394,559,741, which would use FEMA and FHWA Match funding for such projects as roads, bridges, tunnels, transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and environmental mitigation.

One of those infrastructure projects in the backup material includes the project name Community Support – Cape Coral Caring Center for an estimated cost of $400,000. This would be a community building offering all types of emergency assistance after a disaster with such offerings as ice, water, food, phone charging stations and prepared sandwiches.

In addition, there is a project that would construct a Community Recreation Center/Shelter of 90,000 square feet with servicing 20,000 square feet of kennels during emergencies and a community center/animal shelter when not in an emergency. This has an estimated cost of $80,000,000.

Another infrastructure project listed is a three-level structure to include a two-level garage of 150,000 square feet, and a third level to include a safe room, commercial kitchen and community center for mixed use. This project, dubbed the Kennedy Center Parking Garage, Safe Room and Sun Splash Commercial Kitchen/Restaurant, has an estimated cost of $90,000,000.

Other projects include the North 1 West Utilities Extension Project, North 1 East Utilities Extension Project, North 3 Utilities Extension project, North 4 Utilities Extension project and the North 5 Utilities Extension Project.

There are a total of 28 proposed mitigation projects for an estimated cost of $863,105,358.

Fire Chief Ryan Lamb said there were “200 something” projects submitted. The projects were ranked from one to five.

“Not all the projects that we reviewed made those ranked list,” he said.

Lamb said there are different dollars associated with different pots of money.

“We are going to continue to seek additional grant funding. Fund as much of this as possible,” he said adding that they will politically go and get state and congressional support.