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Council changes land use despite county objections; Opens up development

By Staff | Aug 26, 2008

Cape Coral City Council members voted unanimously Monday to change the land use designation of a 1,140-acre piece of land from open lands/wetlands to mixed use to allow for residential and commercial development, despite the objections of Lee County planners.

The land, located in the northeast Cape and bounded on the east by North Tamiami Trail and on the south by Durden Parkway, contains about 844 acres of developable land, 80 percent of which will be commercial development under the current proposal.

“We’re concerned with the suitability with this land for development,” said Paul O’Connor, Lee County director of planning.

O’Connor cited a lack of viable utility options in the area and the possibility of urban sprawl as reasons to preserve the current land use.

But supporters of the proposal, which included city staffers and representatives of the Zemel family trust, which owns the land, countered that the change would bring much-needed commercial development to the city.

“Some utilities are available on the site. The entire area is within the Lee County service area,” said city planner Wyatt Daltry.

This is not the first time the city and the county have clashed over annexed property.

The city settled a lawsuit with the county in May over a property along U.S. 41 and Burnt Store Road.

Mayor Eric Feichthaler criticized the county’s approach to differences between the two governments over land use.

“The lawsuit had no basis in law whatsoever. We’re trying to do the right thing. They’ve approved all these developments up there and is all residential. How anyone could argue this is urban sprawl compared to what the county’s done — it would be funny if it weren’t so unfunny,” Feichthaler said.

Another plan denied

A proposal to develop another recently annexed piece of land was rejected by council members in a 7-1 vote.

Some council members voiced their concern that the plan to build 209 residential units on 276 acres along Burnt Store Road would just be another residential addition to a city oversaturated with houses.

“My fundamental problem is intoducing another 200 homesites to an area where there are already a lot of homesites,” said Councilmember Jim Burch.

“I think this application is not very timely,” Feichthaler said.

Councilman Eric Grill was the only council member who voted in favor of the project.