Moments after the Planning & Zoning commission struck down a request to change the zoning of a piece of property on Cape Coral Parkway, neighbors vowed Wednesday they will continue the fight over the site next door.
Residents of Skyline Waterways say they will file an injunction against the proposed gas station next door because certain procedures weren't followed, according to a member of that community.
"You have to mail notices to the residents within 500 feet of the development. I never received one from the city or anyone," said Pete Stavrou. "I learned about it from a neighbor. I didn't get a letter."
Stavrou said the letter was supposedly returned undeliverable, to which he said "I get my tax bill, I get my water bill."
Stavrou also contends that developer Dan Creighton misled nearby property owners when he said the gas station component was to be scratched in December.
"It's untrue that the developer said 'no gas station.' Then, he comes in and says he got different marching orders. That's garbage," Stavrou said. "For Seven-11s, the criteria is gas stations and convenience stores. It's a whole lot more money."
Creighton said in an interview following the meeting that contesting the proposal is the residents' right.
"That's why we like America, if they feel an injustice they have the right to challenge that. We welcome that. If they win, hats off.
"We'll wait the 30 days. If they don't have it in within 30 days, we'll commence construction. If not, we'll go ahead and deal with the process. We respect their choice to do this."
He added that he believes the project is right for the neighborhood and the city.
"It's tough to say they're doing what's best for Cape Coral because it's in dire financial straits," Creighton said. "It's because of the lack of commercial and we've been dealt the 125 foot depth lots and our forefathers have put us in a position where we don't have room for large-box anchors. No matter what you put there, those individuals won't be happy."
As for the decision Wednesday to deny a request to rezone the 1.12 acre plot at 821 Cape Coral Parkway from professional to commercial, city staff said that while the six-lane road and its location between intersections were ideal, its location near residences and the area's accident numbers made a zoning change unwise, neighbors said.
They also complained about what they said would be resulting decreases in value of their property, the road's ability to handle C-1 development, and the high rate of speed of drivers who use the road.
"I'm opposed to the rezoning. I urge you to keep it P-1. A gas station is blight to the area. It's scenic residential and will exacerbate the problem of commercial development," said resident Larry Toth.
Bill McFarland, attorney for the landowners, 821 Cape Coral Parkway, LLC, Owned by Doug Langer, argued that those who are against the rezoning are against development of any kind.
"The impact of property values and traffic will occur regardless of a C-1 or P-1 designation," McFarland said. "The city needs commercial development and this is anti-development.
Councilmember and P&Z liaison Chris Chulakes-Leetz as well as board member Dan Read added that the uses of C-1, commercial, and P-1, professional, often converge and that the busiest of all uses, medical, is a P-1designation.
But when it came time for the board to vote, it had problems with the depth of the property, with the fear that this would create a strip mall.
"We have always worked with a 250-foot depth for office parks in granting C-1," said P&Z Chairperson Patti Martin. "Without it, we are creating strip zoning."
The board voted to deny the ordinance 5-0, with one abstention, Read.
McFarland said the C-1 designation was necessary to get the broader base of tenants needed to get pre-leasing in place to start the development.
"When we went out to get tenants we kept running into the P-1 designation and we couldn't generate enough support to continue forward," McFarland said. "To change it would increase jobs and construction and activity in this market and the tax base would improve."
McFarland said he plans to appeal the P&Z decision to city council, and that much of the anger about his proposal is more related to the gas station.
"Many of their arguments weren't directed at us more than against development in general," McFarland said.
And while the 821 case seems headed to appeal, the gas station controversy is likely headed to court. Stavrou said they have hired a lawyer, but the name won't be announced until the injunction is filed.
"This is not over. Far from it. We'll take this as far as it has to go," Stavrou said. "Today we won the battle. But the war is far from over."