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New sprinkler ordinance to go into effect sooner for parts of Cape Coral

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Apr 18, 2024

An ordinance designed to conserve water by modifying regulations pertaining to sprinklers and their installation will go into effect June 1 for a certain areas of Cape Coral before rolling out to the entire city in December.

Mayor John Gunter and Councilmembers Richard Carr and Bill Steinke opposed accelerating ordinance 46-23, which addresses irrigation systems and moves the compliance date up for some property owners.

“We have only fluctuated about one foot. It’s that that drastic of a change over the last two months. It didn’t fluctuate that much. Going into the rainy season we know it is going to help with this only because we will be getting more precipitation,” Gunter, adding that there has also been no educational component for the community.

City Manager Mike Ilczyszyn said staff has a full communication plan and education sessions lined up.

“It would have been premature training the industry on something you haven’t supported yet,” he said.

Carr asked if they could consider leaving the increase of fines out of the amended ordinance until it is rolled out to the entire city because it will be difficult to get the message out properly for the impacted area.

Steinke said with the rainy season coming in it would seem that everything is going to move in the other direction, and he was not sure “the juice is worth the squeeze” in making the compliance more restrictive for one area, versus the whole city.

“I might be changing my tune at this point,” he said.

Utilities Director Jeff Pearson said Council came to a consensus at a prior meeting on accelerating the existing ordinance for water conservation measures from Dec. 1 to start as soon as possible. He said that date is June 1.

“During discussions and development of the ordinance, we discussed adding a $500 cash rebate for a minimum of 70% or greater system sufficiency for smart controllers and soil sensors,” Pearson said of irrigation systems.

In addition, Pearson said, they changed the responsible person from the Utilities director to the Development Service director for alternative compliance.

There was also language added for penalties in terms of violation in a 12-month period. He said they kept the first violation with no fine, while the second violation increases from $100 to $200, the third from $200 to $350 and the fourth and subsequent violation from $400 to $500.

This ordinance will only affect a certain portion of the city from June 1 to Dec. 1. On Dec. 1 the ordinance will apply citywide.

“Moving up the start time is just for that specific area, north of Pine Island Road,” Councilmember Tom Hayden said. “We are just talking specifically about the area we addressed might be impacted because of the shortage in the reservoir.”

The ordinance amendment will affect north of Pine Island Road, east of Nelson Road North, South of Gator Slough Canal and Northeast 24th Avenue and Garden Boulevard.

“We don’t appear to be in a good place and this bothers me a little bit. This is to address water shortage in that specific area for the Mid Hawthorne Aquifer,” Hayden said.

Pearson said he believes they should do everything they can and demonstrate that they are committed to water conservation, so the Southwest Florida Water Management District does not impose stricter restrictions on the city than they already have. He said usually April is the driest month and they will start seeing a drop in the aquifer due to the lack of rainfall.