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Right-of-way donations may make or break Pine Island Road expansion plans

By Staff | Aug 12, 2010

State Rep. Gary Aubuchon said the widening of Pine Island Road can not move forward without first solving the issue of right of way acquisition, a challenge that might be better served if property owners along the corridor would be willing to donate the needed space.
Addressing the Cape Coral Construction Industry’s monthly meeting, Aubuchon said it would be absolutely crucial for stakeholders, especially private property owners, to get together to find a way to make it happen.
“There has to be a way the folks along that corridor can get in a room together, talk some sense, and make those numbers work,” Aubuchon said. “We’ve got to lower the land cost, because right now it’s double the cost of the road.”
Aubuchon participated in a panel that also featured County Commission Chairwoman Tammy Hall, Mayor John Sullivan, and City Manager Gary King.
Aubuchon said a potential method to fund the project would be to create a separate taxing authority, which he compared to a community redevelopment agency or district.
As property values increase within the boundaries of this special district, the tax revenues increases, and the funds stay within those boundaries to make the project happen.
But, he added that right of way acquisition will truly drive the project, and donations will save the city, the county, and the state millions in the process.
“The more donations the better,” he said. “It’s something we can bring forward today, instead of 20 years from now.”
Mayor john Sullivan said he city does not have the money to pay the interest against bonding the project.
Sullivan called the project “complicated”, and that he thought impact fee credits to those who donate right of way could be a “good idea”.
But as far as a special assessment, the mayor said he could not get behind the idea, saying it would break a campaign promise of no new taxes.
“If it went to a special referendum, and it passed I would support it, but I would not support the assessment (otherwise),” Sullivan said.
Conversation turned to other topics, including biotech industries, impact fees for new construction, union negotiations and the possibility of federal funding for the city.
King said the labor negotiations were going to be used as a “template” for all future negotiations.
Sullivan said city employees, 95 percent of whom are represented by unions, will have to make some tough decisions in the future.
“They’re either going to have to take it or leave it, they don’t have a choice,” Sullivan said of wage and benefit cuts. “Either take the cut, or get cut. We don’t have money in the pot.”