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Cape Coral announces ‘do over’ on annexation of Matlacha properties

December 6, 2019
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

The city of Cape Coral's retiring city manager announced on Nov. 21 that he has once again asked the City Council to vote to annex the D&D Bait and Tackle Shop parcels at the entrance to Matlacha. The matter is scheduled for a vote at the Dec. 9 council meeting at 4:30 p.m. The first attempted annexation of these parcels in 2016 was overturned by the Circuit Court in September of this year.

The Matlacha/Pine Island Fire District Commissioners last Wednesday night unanimously voted to oppose Cape Coral's new effort. The Fire District commissioners also voted to set aside a litigation war chest to oppose annexation, and to hire an expert to oppose annexation at the Dec. 9 City Council hearing.

The city manager has presented an expert report supporting the annexation. In the report, David W. Depew claims that all legal requirements for "voluntary annexation" have now been met. However, the city has declined to state the specific use it plans for the annexed properties. Mr. Depew, however, says that under Cape Coral's new zoning scheme, the current density of the parcels can be increased to 15 dwelling units per acre. Under Cape Coral's zoning plan, the height of any new structure is relatively unlimited.

Mr. Depew is very careful in reporting his conclusions. Rather than stating his own opinion, he states repeatedly that the city "has provided assurances" that certain criteria for annexation will be met in the future. Fire Commissioner Michael Dreikorn pointed out at the Fire District meeting that many of the "assurances" are false.

Critical among these assurances is that the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire District will provide fire service to the parcels "under an interlocal agreement." However, the Fire District commissioners unanimously declared at their recent meeting that this agreement is "null and void" as a result of the Circuit Court's ruling in September quashing the 2016 annexation resolution. Cape Coral has no fire station near enough to the parcels to comply with regulatory guidelines.

Cape Coral also assured Mr. Depew that water will be supplied to the parcels under an "interlocal agreement" with the Greater Pine Island Water Association. However, the agreement appended to the report says no such thing.

Cape Coral also assured Mr. Depew that Cape Coral "utilities are available to service the site." However, the letter from the Cape Coral Utilities director referenced in the report does not say where these Cape Coral utilities are currently located. The Utilities director letter also makes clear that unspecified "off-site infrastructure improvements," "payments of fees" and unspecified "regulatory approvals" would be required. The letter notes that "water and sewer line extension" also would be required at the "developer's expense."

At the hearing held this past summer by Judge Kyle on the prior annexation, the judge asked the Cape Coral attorney how such utilities could be delivered to the D&D parcels. The attorney suggested that Cape Coral might "condemn" some residential properties across the canal from the parcels, and run sewer and water lines under the canal. Some members of the audience gasped, and others laughed.

Mr. Depew notes that 60% of the perimeter of the D&D parcels is "contiguous" to Cape Coral City boundaries, thus meeting a critical criteria for annexation. However, Mr. Depew fails to note that the area "contiguous" is actually wilderness land owned by the state of Florida. This land was originally owned by the early developers of Cape Coral. These developers were put into bankruptcy and forced to deed the land to the state of Florida in 1977 in an enforcement action brought by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation against the developer. Under the deed, no one may enter upon or utilize these wilderness lands, including Cape Coral.

Numerous other objections exist to the proposal. The most common complaint by many residents of both Cape Coral and Lee County is why is a municipality engaging in real estate development and buying land outside its boundaries for investment. Mr. Depew does not address these complaints.

Mike Hannon

Pine Island



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