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Developer: Overhead power lines or $180M project

By Staff | Mar 18, 2009

A $180 million development project is in jeopardy as a result of a decision by the Cape Coral City Council last week to install overhead power lines along Southeast 47th Terrace.
The developer had an eye toward building a 450,000-square-foot, mixed-use development spanning a full block along 47th Terrace, but said he will pull the plug on the deal if the council does not reconsider its vote to place 77-foot-tall transmission lines on the street.
“If those poles go down, I’m not going to build,” Robbie Lee, owner of Island Development, told Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency Board members Tuesday.
Lee’s proposal is the type of development coveted by the CRA, and its board members resolved Tuesday to ask council members to reconsider their position during Monday’s council meeting.
CRA board members felt blindsided by the council’s vote last week. They had been working with the Lee County Electrical Cooperative for the past two years to find a way to place the transmission lines, which LCEC says are needed to connect the substation on Everest Parkway to the substation in the CRA, underground, at least for the portion of the line that would run through the CRA.
“We’re all a little shocked and surprised,” CRA Board member Jason Tramonte said.
LCEC has stated it will install the overhead lines at no cost to the city, but asks the city or the CRA to make up the difference in the cost between overhead and underground lines.
Various bids by the city have shown the cost difference to be between $5.8 million and $7.5 million to install 1.2 miles of underground lines along Southeast 46th Lane.
The CRA has committed $1.9 million to place the lines underground, leaving the city, which is currently trying to figure out how to cut $10 million from its budget, to make up the difference.
CRA Board member Bob Greco acknowledged the city’s fiscal constraints, but said there should still be a way to fund the underground lines.
“I’m sure there’s budget problems up there, but this is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things,” he said.
The CRA will have at least one supporter on the dais Monday. Mayor Jim Burch is the city council’s liaison with the CRA and was one of two council members, along with Counci lmember Pete Brandt, to vote against the overhead lines.
“I think it was one of the most detrimental decisions the city of Cape Coral has ever made. We should take a comprehensive look at this thing instead of just putting it up and looking at it again in two years, which seemed to be the prevailing attitude,” Burch said.