5 Things To Know from the Cape Coral City Council Meeting (Feb. 6)

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Cape Coral's City Council held its regular meeting at City Hall Monday evening.

The meeting included discussions on the building of a no-kill animal shelter, extending citizens input at council meetings, a proposed multi-use trail in North Cape Coral, and more.

Below are five takeaways from last night’s meeting.

 

City Council approves land lease for no-kill animal shelter

Cape Coral's first no-kill animal shelter continues to move closer to reality.

On Monday night, the city council voted 7-0 to approve a lease agreement between the city and Cape Coral Animal Shelter Corporation on 4.2 acres of city-owned land adjacent to William Austen Youth Center and just north of Sun Splash Waterpark.

Terms of the lease call for the organization to pay $1 per year for the land for the next 99 years.

City Manager John Szerlag hailed the shelter as a much-needed project for Cape Coral, and council member Jim Burch called the agreement a win/win for all involved.

Cape Coral Animal Shelter Corporation and former city council member Gloria Tate was in attendance for the meeting and could hardly contain her excitement, "This is a very exciting day for us, and we hope you too," Tate told the city council.

The lease agreement is the latest in a series of efforts by the non-profit organization to bring a no-kill animal shelter to Cape Coral.

Established late last year, Cape Coral Animal Shelter Corporation picked up the cause after Gulf Coast Humane Society made the decision to discontinue its efforts to raise funds to build a shelter under their umbrella located in Cape Coral.

Most recently, the organization announced at a fundraiser on January 26 that the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation had committed an $800,000 donation to the initiative, bringing the total raised for the animal shelter to over $1.3 million.

Representatives from the organization said estimated total costs to build the state-of-the-art shelter would be in the neighborhood of $2 million.

With the land now secure, the organization says it hopes to break ground on the new facility later this year.

 

Citizens Input time at council meetings extended to an hour

Citizens input time at city council meetings will now be fifteen minutes longer moving forward.

The expansion comes after the city council unanimously approved extending the time citizens can express their opinions and concerns from forty-five minutes to sixty minutes.

The move was made after city council member Marilyn Stout proposed increasing the overall time of citizens input as well as increasing the time allotted to individual speakers from three minutes to five minutes.

While the overall time extension was met with little resistance, the individual time extension request wasn’t as warmly received, "Extending to five minutes does not make sense. It would result in less people talking," said council member Rick Williams.

Williams went on to explain that giving five minutes to each speaker would only allow a maximum of twelve speakers to address the city council compared to the maximum fifteen speakers that were allowed in the three minutes/forty-five-minutes format the council historically allowed.

Agreeing with Williams, the city council voted 7-0 (Mayor Marni Sawicki was absent from the meeting due to illness) to approve the overall time extension to sixty minutes and leave the individual speaking time to three minutes.

In addition to the overall time extension, council member Rana Erbrick also suggested adding a third monthly meeting, a town hall meeting, that would consist strictly of citizens input, "It might be a little more informal and invite dialogue."

Erbrick said she would research the possibility and bring back several options for the city council to consider regarding the proposed town hall meeting.

For now, the city council will try the new sixty-minute template on a trial basis through June when the council goes on their annual summer hiatus. Before going on the hiatus, the city council will discuss the new format and determine whether or not to continue and whether any tweaks need to be made.

 

City receives nearly $1.8 million grant for North Cape multi-use trail design

Continuing steps to become a bicycling/walking destination, the city will begin design work on a nearly seven-mile multi-use trail that is proposed for the north section of Cape Coral.

If the trail comes to fruition it will span from the north side of Van Buren Parkway from Burnt Store Road to El Dorado Boulevard; the west side of El Dorado Boulevard from Van Buren Parkway to Kismet Parkway; and the north side of Kismet Parkway from El Dorado Boulevard to Del Prado Boulevard.

The trail will be 12 foot wide and span over three canals, creating both a scenic and challenging trek for cyclists, runners, and walkers.

The cost to develop the design plans will be $1.78 million. However, the city will not incur any out of pocket expenses due to receiving a Sun Trail Grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) that will cover the entire cost of design.

The total cost of construction for the trail, which includes three new bridges is estimated at $8 million. The city says it has applied for another grant that they hope will cover the cost of construction. No timetable was given as to when the decision on the grant will be made by the FDOT.

 

Commercial Activity Center Future Land Use changes mean easier time for duplex construction

Between 2004 and 2010 the city designated a large number of properties "Commercial Activity Center (CAC)" in its Future Land Use Plan.

The hopes were to spur commercial growth. While some growth has happened, the new designation also left some property owners holding land with little option to build, particularly such projects as duplexes.

The issue was highlighted last year when a property owner on Santa Barbara Place came to the city council requesting a Zoning and Future Land Use change for his property located within a CAC designated area that would allow the building of a duplex.

While the city council did not approve the request, it did direct city staff to research possible ways to create more flexibility for the CAC designation.

Coming back to the city council on Monday night, City Planner Wyatt Daltry presented a few changes that would allow property owners within CAC areas more options.

Some of those options included the removal of a restriction that did not permit the building of residential construction under 20 acres and allow up to 16 residences per acre and the removal of the PDP process for projects within a CAC designated area.

Joe Mazurkiewicz, President of BJM Consulting, applauded the city's efforts and said the changes would bring the city a much-needed product, multi-family dwellings.

However, council member Rick Williams expressed concerns of removing the PDP process saying doing so would cost the city control regarding what is built in those areas.

Responding to Williams' concerns, Daltry explained that while the PDP process would not be required for some development, properties near residential areas would still have to work to acquire the PDP.

Despite some reservations, the city council voted unanimously on approving the changes.

Since the modification has a significant impact on the city's comprehensive plan, the proposed amendments will now be submitted to the state for their approval before they can be implemented by the city.

 

Cape Coral's North RO Water Plant receives state award

Kicking off Monday night's meeting, the City's North RO Water Plant received the 2016 "Plant Operations Excellence Award" from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

The reverse osmosis plant received the award as the "best water treatment plant serving a large community (over 150,000 population)," in the agencies South District that includes; Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Monroe, and Sarasota Counties.

On hand to present the award was FDEP's South District Office Director John Iglehart.

Reacting to the plant receiving the award, council member Jim Burch said the award was a long time coming for those who work at the facility, "They have been getting accolades for a long time. I am so glad that group has now been recognized officially."