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Cape Council has busy year ahead

December 27, 2018
By CHUCK?BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Cape Coral City Council got a lot accomplished in 2018, and 2019 will probably be the same, especially early in the year.

There will be the usual issues, such as the budget and special city projects that have been in the works for years, as well as items that come on the fly.

Mayor Joe Coviello said much was addressed last year, and the coming year should bring more issues for the city to work on, with water quality being among the most important.

"We moved a lot of things forward last year, and with the city approaching 200,000 people, we still have a lot of work to do," Coviello said. "The biggest thing right now that is always on my mind is water quality."

Blue-green algae will continue to be an item of interest in 2019 following one of the worst blooms ever in the area.

Coviello said the main issue is Lake Okeechobee, and that he hopes help comes from Tallahassee.

"We need the governor to make changes to the board of the South Florida Water Management District. It seems like their best interests was in agriculture and not the coastal ones. Maybe the new governor will make changes that are beneficial to coastal communities," Coviello said. "Also, the utilities expansion project in the Northwest Cape is allowing us to get rid of those septic tanks and improving the water quality up there."

January alone could produce some long Monday nights at the dais, Among the items it will be discussing will be the formal passing of the $60 million General Obligation Bond initiative for new and refurbished parks in the city, the proposed pet sales ban ordinance, the revised land-use regulations and a measure that would have the city hold city elections during even-numbered years.

The new parks, which will be built over the course of years, will be the centerpiece of the growth of the city, said Councilmember John Carioscia.

"City manager John Szerlag and his staff sold the residents on the idea that to be a first-class city, you need a first-class park system," Carioscia said. "Staff will tell us where we're going to go first and where to put the money. We have the money, now we want specifics. Where are the priorities? I'm excited about that."

Among the other items that the city will move over from the "to be continued" pile include the possible purchase of the old golf course property (provided it is environmentally mitigated for purchase) and the construction of an Oasis Sports Park, which was not included in the parks referendum.

"The plan shows where the amphitheater will be, the pickleball courts, it's all laid out. They got a lot done according to the plan," Carioscia said. "There is also buzz regarding Academic Village. What will we do with that? That's about two or three years away."

Also, in January, the city council will have to consider the Cape Coral Charter School system and how it can be self-sustaining in the future.

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson, the council liaison, said leadership at the school is strong and the storminess when she arrived has subsided.

"When I meet with our superintendent Jacqueline Collins, I tell her to come up with a Plan B should the city decide it is not cost effective to assist in the business operations at the school. I want her to anticipate potential conflicts," Nelson said. "I don't want to see our residents double-taxed for the charter and public schools."

Among the other items on the docket will include Bimini Basin and the mooring field there, Seven Islands, the proposed "P3s" at the D&D boat lift in Matlacha and at Coral Oaks Golf Club and the Chiquita Lock. The city will also have to find more areas for affordable housing (with 1,200 multi-family units going in) and put the finishing touches on the proposed Marriott motorcoach resort on Burnt Store Road.

"We have to get something done with Bimini and show more progress on that and on Seven Islands, Matlacha and the lock. I think by the end of 2019, we'll have it out," Carioscia said.

Coviello said a marketing firm has taken over the Seven Islands project, so there should be significant developments there in the next year as with much of the northwest Cape.

"There aren't a lot of establishments in the northwest Cape for people to eat, so it would be nice to have something for them off Burnt Store Road," Coviello said. "Bimini Basin and Seven Islands are game-changers in those areas."

No matter what, Councilmember Rick Williams believes the city will continue to progress into the future, provided council continues to work together.

"There's a lot we will be working on, and we have to move forward in a positive direction," Councilmember Rick Williams said. "If we don't turn into a bickering mess, we'll be OK."



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