Residents react to proposed land use changes
City council’s efforts to push through land use changes ahead of the Amendment Four vote in November has upset homeowners on Trafalgar Parkway.
People in the Emerald Cove community are worried that pending commercial designation for land adjacent to their homes will destroy their quiet way of life, and bring unwanted traffic and safety issues to Trafalgar.
“I believe homeowners are being snubbed for commercial development, and we’re the heart and soul of the community,” said Eunice Rofsky. “I think homeowners should have more say about what goes into the community.”
Rofsky is one of 30 or so homeowners within Emerald Cove who want their dissatisfaction with the proposed land use changes heard.
Nina Yelvington, president of the homeowners association for Emerald Cove, said she’s making an effort to notify all homeowners in the neighborhood, not just those who received official word from the city, or those whose homes are within 500 feet of the proposed change.
Yelvington said she’s been giving neighbors a form letter to send to city council that opposes the change.
She said she also supports Amendment Four, the so-called “Hometown Democracy” amendment.
“They (city council) should not be able to change this at their will. It’s not fair to the people who have to be subjected to this,” Yelvington said.
Approximately 30,000 have, or will, receive notice of the land use change, which will affect all properties abutting main thoroughfares — those that are six lanes or that are expected to become six-lanes in the future.
City council made a total of five changes to the future land use map in 2009, a number that was described as low by Richard Sosnowski from the city’s Department of Planning and Growth Management.
The lack of land use changes over the years has put the Cape in a precarious situation, one that detractors of the hometown democracy amendment say will continue plague the city.
Cape Coral is almost solely reliant on property taxes, which make up 92 percent of the total tax base.
Council member Marty McClain said the city can simply not grow and thrive on those numbers.
The benefit of the higher commercial tax base will be passed on to homeowners, he said.
“We desperately need a commercial tax presence in this city … and the outcome is to lessen the tax burden on the citizens,” McClain said. “We need to put more of a commercial presence here.”
Trafalgar Parkway is an area described as “controversial” by city planner Wyatt Daltry, due to the heavy single family residential development.
Daltry said the land use changes should be complete by October, and represent one of, if not the most, significant amount of changes to the land use plan ever.
When completed, Daltry said the amount of commercial land would bring Cape Coral in line with other communities.
“This is interesting times for us because we haven’t gone through anything like this since we adopted our comprehensive plan in 1989,” he said. “This is the largest packet of land use changes we’ve gone through.”
Most of the land use changes would eventually be classified as a commercial activity center, or CAC, according to Daltry.
The designation would keep new single family residential from being built, but would also let existing homeowners rebuild their homes in the wake of a catastrophic occurrence.
Then there’s the issue of property values for homeowners, which proponents of the land use change say would increase as commercial development begins to take shape.
McClain said homeowners within the commercial zones will also see their property values remain consistent.
“There will be a stabilization of value … and historically commercial keeps its value,” he said.
Mayor John Sullivan said the city is unfortunately caught in a crossfire, with commercial growth on one side, and unhappy residents on the other.
As Trafalgar has been identified as one of the major thoroughfares for the city’s future, it almost seem inevitable that progress was going to get in the way of life, or vice versa.
“We’re caught between the devil and the deep blue here,” Sullivan said. “If we don’t do anything, the city is going to suffer, if we do, people are going to suffer.”
Council member Chris Chulakes-Leetz and Kevin McGrail could not be reached for comment.