Residents protest proposed plans for Redfish Pointe
Along Southwest 6th Place near Rotary Park on Wednesday was an area with yellow “Crime Scene” tape across it.
No crime had been committed there. However, residents who live in the area say there will be an environmental crime if a proposed development comes to fruition.
Nearly 80 people braved rainy conditions to protest plans for Redfish Pointe they say will impact marked-for-preservation lands.
The protest march was organized by “Protect our Wetlands Cape Coral.”
Joe Bonasia, one of the organizers for the event, said hundreds of families were flooded during Ian, adding only the mangroves along the river kept the waters from causing even more flood damage in one of the most vulnerable areas in the country for storms.
“The wetlands are there for storm protection and flood mitigation. If they build over there, it will put us at greater risk,” Bonasia said. “If the city council approves this, it means they care more about tax revenue than the safety of these families.”
Doug Fairleigh, who lives in the area with his wife, brought a sign depicting the damage done to his house from Ian. He said a foot of water came in despite the mangroves. Without them, he maintained it would have been much worse.
“You go a mile from here where there are no mangroves, they had four or five feet of flooding. Mangroves do their job. They keep the storms away,” Fairleigh said.
“Water seeks the path of least resistance,” he added.
The protest began at Rotary Park and ventured to Southwest 6th Place, where the entrance to the proposed development is planned. It was there that the crime scene tape was stretched.
There were cries for the county to purchase the land under 20/20 Conservation so it can remain as is in perpetuity for pennies on the dollar, as was done with Four Mile Cove three years ago.
Jason Pim, an environmentalist who grew up sailing and fishing in the area, said he appreciates a natural resource like the wetlands.
“We tend to take these green areas for granted. You see a project like this and Four Mile Cove come along and you learn they can be developed,” Pim said. “You realize they are worth saving, which is why we’re here.”
Organizer Ruth Hague said such an undertaking takes more than one person or any group of people.
“We are neighbors and we face the same challenges. We need you and we need actionable events. Stand ready because there will be more of these,” Hague said. “We’re going to depend on you to be there, rain or shine.”
Redfish Pointe, which sits just east of Tarpon Point totaling 350 acres, has more than 4,500 linear feet of frontage along the Caloosahatchee River. The “Redfish Pointe Mixed Use Preserve District,” Future Land Use text amendment, was submitted to the city.
The 110.22 acres for development improvement plans features a 90.37-acre mixed use site to include 800 residential units, a resort hotel, restaurants, retail shops, office space, a parking garage and boat slips.
Other features at Redfish Pointe would include a 20-foot-wide boardwalk and 120-spot public parking area, 75-foot-wide landscaping/natural area buffer, conveyance of 54.02 acres of high-quality wetlands, and a 2.26 acre, 100-foot-wide access road connection from Rose Garden Road to the internal roadway, including bike and pedestrian paths and landscaped median.
Members of the organized group say the wetlands provide critical protection from storms, such as Hurricane Ian, and would increase flooding, destroy critical wildlife habitat, disrupt the hydrology and ecology degrading the natural character and appeal of Rotary Park, increase traffic congestion, and strain infrastructure.
The group has been speaking at most city council meetings for several months and has held meetings at Rotary Park to answer any questions residents have about Redfish Pointe.
Hague said there will be more actionable events in the coming months to get more people on their side. She said she was happy with the turnout even with the rain, as she was expecting around 60 people.
“Someone posted on our website that it was raining and the event was cancelled. We would have had a lot more people, but I’m still impressed with the turnout. There are a lot of concerned citizens,” Hague said.
Annette Barbaccia of Milo Aubuchon Realty Group said in a previous interview any development would preserve wetlands and have minimal impact on nearby parks and neighborhoods.
“(A potential developer) will make sure all of the water is retained on the property,” Barbaccia said. “In fact, (the expert said) it could probably be even better, especially if we do plantings. Because right now, everything has been devastated. The buildings and other barriers can help serve as that, as well. Two hundred and forty acres are going to remain as they are.