Cape Coral City Council gave its blessing to a $5,000 purchase agreement for Little Pine Island Mitigation Bank to offset wetland impacts on Academic Village on Monday during its regular meeting at city hall.
But only on the condition the city look for mitigation areas of its own.
That ordinance was approved 7-0, with John Carioscia absent because of a death in the family.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz wasn't thrilled about spending the money, even though the $5,000 was a refundable deposit that allows the city two years to decide what it will do with the long-idle property on the corner of Del Prado Boulevard and Kismet Parkway.
He suggested the city to explore its own mitigation areas.
"We need to define our own mitigation. There are so many opportunities for the Cape to find its own mitigation areas," Chulakes-Leetz said. "Let's pay our own people instead of sending it outside the city."
He suggested Yellow Fever Creek or some of the property the city purchased for wastewater use.
The proposal was quickly praised.
"There are several large areas of property available. I'd like to see the city manager move it forward," Councilmember Kevin McGrail said. "The scrub jays were not appropriate. It wasn't species specific. This I can support."
"Has anyone ever looked into this?" Councilmember Rana Erbrick asked. "With direction, we can set aside land for mitigation."
Erbrick also warned that land must follow certain criteria in order for mitigation to be allowed.
For the city to extend the mitigation another two years, it would cost the city $99,000. To purchase the mitigation, it would cost almost $1 million, which a private developer could foot the bill for.
Academic Village has been the proposed home for a university, an aquatic center for swimmers and, most recently, a convention and entertainment center.
Mitigation is a form of credit to allow wetlands to be built over, provided another wetland is formed in its place. It would allow a parking lot to be built in a wetland, for example, provided a better wetland is built somewhere else.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to uphold a Zoning Appeals Board decision to deny a variance to Rafael Carrion for a gazebo he built on his property in the northwest Cape.
The board also voted 6-1 to approve the issuance by the Cape Coral Health Facilities Authority of its revenue bond in a principal amount not to exceed $23 million.
Chulakes-Leetz cast the lone no vote.