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City council approves Zemel land use change

By Staff | May 21, 2009

Representatives for the Zemel Family Trust may have felt a sense of déjà vu Wednesday.
For the second time in less than a year, the Cape Coral City Council approved a land use change for 1,100 acres — the majority of which is owned by the Zemel Family Trust — from open wetlands to mixed use preserve.
Council members originally approved the change in August to allow for commercial and residential development, but the Florida Department of Community Affairs denied the switch over environmental concerns.
City planners added more protected wetland areas as part of the new proposal, and noted that the area’s unplatted nature makes it ripe for commercial development.
“It’s the largest unplatted area held by a single private entity in Cape Coral,” city planner Wyatt Daltry said.
If the land use change is approved by DCA this time, 80 percent to 100 percent of the developable land could be used for commercial development, while up to 20 percent could be used for residential development.
The property contains about 844 acres of developable land, leaving the rest designated as wetlands.
Zemel Family Trust representatives touted the amount of wetlands in the property.
“That’s almost a third of the entire property that’s going into designation as conservation,” said David Depew, a representative for the Zemel Family Trust.
Lee County officials, however, also have concerns that the property’s future development will have adverse effects on the environment.
The city and the county have squabbled over the Zemel property before, during and after its annexation by the city last year.
County planner Matt Noble, while addressing the county’s issues with the land use change, said the county wanted to work through the problems with the city as the proposal moves forward.
“We as the county don’t view this as the end of the road,” he said.
Mayor Jim Burch expressed his willingness to work with county officials, but urged them to sharpen their critiques of the proposal.
“My concerns are that the county’s concerns in general are too general. We will continue to work on this and I’m hoping the county will work with us in earnest,” he said.