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Increase lot size, reduce density

February 18, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

The FDEC has given the city of Cape Coral until March 17 to provide additional information to its office. Upon receipt of that information the state needs to reject the Cape Coral application for permit of a new barrier on the Spreader Canal as alternative ideas have not been included during the process.

Most feel that current canal water quality is very satisfactory. They also feel that current well systems are very satisfactory. I agree. And, given modest residential building growth, I feel these qualities will remain satisfactory. This means wasteful spending on unneeded central sewer and central water is absolutely not necessary. What may be needed are upgrades to existing systems as maintenance becomes necessary.

The typical well and septic system systems have advantages. For instance, they are clearly cheaper to build operate and maintain than central systems. Well systems provide water which is not tainted by the toxic chemicals the municipal system puts in the water to prevent bacterial growth in the long distribution lines. The septic system conserves energy usage. And the combination well/septic provides a long-term sustainable loop with ground water. It returns treated water as it uses fresh. The central fresh water system uses water, dries out the aquifer, and does not replace it. And many central sewer systems pump incompletely treated water directly into waterways. Or, worse yet, pump untreated water into waterways upon system failure.

However, many are legitimately concerned with the potential qualities if new residential construction is allowed to max out all available building lots and to max out the current agricultural tracts with residences. In this latter situation, the new construction may eventually require central sewer and water due to the tiny building lot sizes. Should this occur it would be fair to place the cost burden on those who develop the currently vacant building lots.

A major solution to these problems is to control population density. The reduction in future population density within the North Cape will result in fewer new residences. This will allow a manageable number of new wells and new septic systems. There will be no future need for central sewer and water or the expensive impact fees, associated costs and sewer/water bills in the northeast and northwest Cape.

How can this come about? Let me outline the idea. Cape Coral Council and Mayor, with the support of voters, Realtors, appraisers, attorneys, builders and others, will change current residential zoning by increasing the minimum building lot size in the north Cape. This will reduce the number of households and population density. Then they will create a commission to facilitate the process of consolidating existing residential lots into the new minimum size. The commission could be called the Residential Building Lot Consolidation Commission.

Zoning would remain unchanged for existing construction on existing lot sizes throughout the Cape. It would remain the same for new construction in the southeast and southwest Cape. However, it would change for new residential construction in the northeast and northwest of the Cape. Here new single family dwellings (R-1A & R-1B) and new homes on residential estate (RE) would need a minimum lot size equivalent to the current typical lot size times six or greater. (R-1A and R-1B for vacant lots would be changed to RE).

This means the residential building lot size would increase from about 1/4 acre to 1-1/3 acre. Multi family (R-3) would need a minimum lot size which equals the number of units times the current lot size times six. The minimum lot size for residential developments (RD) must equal the current single lot size times six and times the number of units in the development. And, stipulations would be made to thoroughfare commercial (C-3) which requires that if this land is used for residential it must meet or exceed the new residential lot size requirement which equals the current average lot size times six. And a stipulation would be added to agricultural zoning which indicates should a property be subdivided it must meet another zoning requirement. That is, subdivided agricultural land must be zoned Country Estate (a brand new classification) which means the minimum new lot size would be 2 -1/2 acres.

The Residential Building Lot Consolidation Commission would be approved by council and operated under the city manager or outsourced with oversight of the City Manager. This commission would facilitate the consolidation of residential lots in the northeast and northwest and work with Realtors, builders, investors, appraisers, attorneys, Lee and state government and others. It would create and supply a compressive listing of all vacant residential, commercial and agricultural lots in the southeast, southwest, northeast and northwest. It would provide owner name and contact information to the public.

The commission would facilitate real estate transactions between two or more parties. It would facilitate lots added side by side, to the rear, to the rear corners, to the rear across the street, to the front across the street, side by side across the street, and allow lots to be added which are a distance away. All for the purpose of enjoining six lots to allow for new residential construction. And, it would allow larger consolidators to blend their lots. For instance, a large consolidator could have 12 current lots. This consolidator could use two of these current lots to make one new lot and use 10 current lots to make another new lot. It would also facilitate transfers between the south and north Cape. That is, south lot owner trades to north for a larger lot while north owner trades to the south to keep a smaller lot.

The new lot sizes and varied layout will encourage unique design and use possibilities.

For instance, unattached garages, RV and boat storage at current setbacks, private boat launches into canals, larger size landscaping, different pool locations, tennis courts, circular driveways, driveways between streets, side loading garages, many new home floor plans and many other possibilities. This diversity will increase interest and investment in the Cape. It will also stabilize the tax base and help end the financial crisis.

There are many types of investments. Risks, returns or losses vary. There are no guarantees. The Cape has many land investors who have one thing in common. After decades these investors have failed to develop their lots. I believe many would sell today if they could. Others could simply hold their single lot investments for appreciation. Others would act upon this opportunity to buy lots and consolidate them into Residential Estate building lots. Others may work to subdivide current Agricultural Zoned property into Country Estate building lots.

This leaves an opportunity for action. Currently lot values are at an all-time low. These prices will facilitate deals. Rezoning will stimulate the real estate market and lead to a smarter type of development.

A short while ago, the Cape Council changed zoning for the purpose of increasing commercial development. They did this by changing the zoning of many single family lots to commercial. That is, they are allowing lots to be consolidated into bigger parcels. They can just as easily change zoning again. They need to change zoning to allow residential building lots to be consolidated into bigger size residential lots.

It is time to end the hand-me-down corporate thinking of the Cape developers who created too many small lots to maximize their profits. It is time for council to realistically adjust building lot size to benefit the environment, save money, and allow for the real estate to be more favorably marketed.

James Arft

Cape Coral



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