Land-use changes proposed for residential properties abutting major roadways
Thirty thousand Cape Coral property owners will receive notices letting them know their parcels could go through some serious land use changes by the end of the year.
Single family residential usage would become commercial, giving Cape Coral the option to develop those areas in the future.
Doing so would help the city diversify its tax base, which is heavily dependent on property tax, proponents say.
In fact, 93 percent of the city tax roll is residential, lending credence to the city’s status as a bedroom community in the eyes of many.
The city is now trying to push through these land use changes in a hurry, trying to stay ahead of the so-called “Hometown Democracy” Amendment which is set to be voted on in November.
Should the amendment pass, all land use changes in the city would have to be approved at the ballot box.
Opponents of the amendment say those ballots would be literally clogged with hundreds of land use changes, stopping any new development because voters would not be educated enough to make informed decisions.
“Every ballot would have two to three hundred changes on it,” said developer Dan Creighton. “Every change would have to voted on … even if the city wanted changes it would have to be voted on.”
Creighton is part of a small group of developers urging the city to make these changes.
He said he was happy with the progress city staff has made so far, adding that his group was specifically pushing to change land usage south of Pine Island Road.
Apparently, staff was focusing on land north of Pine Island, but Creighton felt development in the north was too far away, and parcels in the south should also be switched, particularly along six-lane thoroughfares like Santa Barbara and Veterans Parkway.
“When we got to the city we realized they were working on the changes … but though they were working on the wrong areas,” Creighton said. “We thought they should be looking more at areas south of Pine Island Road.”
Changes in the land use plan could be done as early as April.
Actually, the earlier the better, as whatever land changes approved by council must also be approved in Tallahassee.
If things keep plugging along, those land use changes could be up north as early as June, well ahead the November vote.
The speed in which the changes are taking place is unsettling to Mayor John Sullivan, who said the city is simply stuck with the situation.
He said he couldn’t speculate as to what previous council’s were thinking when in came to these changes. The new council simply has to deal with them.
“I don’t like the idea we’re pushing all this through at the last minute but there’s no choice at this juncture. I’d like to take more time,” he said. “It’s a shame it’s gone on for this long, but we’re stuck with what we’ve got.”
For those living in homes in the areas being eyed for land use changes, city staff said those changes would be non-conforming, allowing homeowners to stay put.
Land use changes would also have strict buffering requirements for future developments, according Derek Burr, Planning & Growth Management Division manager.
Burr said most of the major development would be concentrated at major intersections on those six lane roads.
“South of Pine Island Road is a little harder but we’re trying to stay away neighborhoods,” Burr said. “Most of the more intense work will be at major intersections.”
If all the land use changes are ultimately approved, its still unclear how much it would balance out the city’s tax base.
Dan Creighton thinks it would be push the city commercial tax base closer to 20 percent, while District 1 Council member Marty McClain thinks the current percentage would double, possibly reaching 14 percent.
McClain thinks the city still needs to reach the 20 – 25 percent mark, but still needs to get as much on the commercial roll as possible.
“These are changes that should have taken place over the years instead of a single year. But to bring stability to our tax base, we’re going to have to implement commercial aspects,” he said.
Of course, there’s a chance voters won’t approve Amendment 4 in November.
If that happens, then the city has still gotten a jump on their commercial base, making developers like Dan Creighton happy in the process.
Should the amendment pass, Creighton cited the community of St. Pete Beach as an example of a city lead astray by hometown democracy, as land use changes that even were approved by voters are now tied up in heavy litigation, leaving them in limbo.
For the Cape to move forward into the 21st century, and to become a viable, thriving community, Creighton said the time is now for the city to grow beyond its bedroom community roots.
“A bedroom community sounds great, but it’s not a self sufficient community,” Creighton said.