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Land use change draws ire of citizens

By Staff | Jan 13, 2009

In two separate votes Monday, Cape Coral City Council members decided to change the land use classification of 32 acres of land along Chiquita Boulevard south of Veterans Parkway from residential to commercial activity center.
The decision irked some of the residents who live there, many of whom came out to plead with council members not to sanction the change that could bring unwanted development to their area and drive down their home values.
“I have just in the past year have spent over $50,000 remodeling my house. This is an absolute devastation to me and my family,” said Kevin Stuckert, a 34-year Cape resident who has lived in his home in the affected area for 22 years.
“We leave Fort Myers (from work) to come back to a nice quiet, calm place,” he added.
Council members created the commercial activity center classification last year as a way to have mixed development in a preplatted city with few expanses of land that do not have some residential land use as part of them.
Mayor Jim Burch said he understands the concerns of people living there, but cited the city’s need for more commercial areas as his main reason for approving the change.
“We certainly are going to need that commercial space,” Burch said.
“It’s very difficult for us to look at property owners and make decisions like this,” he added later.
The land use change was requested by the Chicago-based Newcom Real Property, which was represented by former Cape mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consulting at the meeting.
Mazurkiewicz told council members areas like the one in question along Chiquita are more favorable for commercial development than other, more densely populated areas of the city.
“Who’s backyard are you going to put it in? Because there’s no place to put it in where you’re not putting it in somebody’s backyard,” he said.
Residents claim that Newcom, and for the most part the city, have been unwilling to work with them on the possible development of the area.
“They (Newcom) don’t have a clue. We’ve been fighting this since February,” said Bob Keane, who has owned his home in the neighborhood for one year.
“Tonight they (the city) have basically confiscated our property,” said Roger Langill, a five-year resident in the area.
Residents did find some council support, despite not prevailing in the final votes.
“What you’ve got here is a de facto confiscation of the property. It’s not even imminent domain, it’s confiscation of their property,” Councilmember Pete Brandt said.
Brandt joined Councilmembers Bill Deile and Eric Grill in voting against one of the changes in a 4-3 vote. Burch and Councilmembers Dolores Bertolini, Tim Day and Derrick Donnell voted for it. Councilmember Gloria Tate abstained, saying she had a relative who owns property near the affected area.
Grill switched his vote in a second tally for another land use change in the rest of the area.
Stuckert told council members the requests of residents to leave the area designated residential are not unreasonable.
“I would just like my children to grow up in a place that they could always call home. That just doesn’t seem like it’s too much to ask,” he said.