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Conservation plan back on the table

By Staff | Mar 26, 2011

City council could decide Monday to spend $788,025 for a land conservation plan that Lee County would conduct on Cape Coral’s behalf, making improvements to Florida Scrub Jay Habitats.
The price includes an initial restoration of $465,025, and $323,000 for long-term maintenance of the site, which lays on Conservation 20/20 land in Alva.
The plan is necessary to compensate for loss of scrub jay habitat on land the city hopes to develop into Festival Park. The Florida scrub jay is considered a threatened species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Cape Coral Planning and Growth Manager Derek Burr said the city has only four options for dealing with the scrub jay situation, including the interlocal agreement.
Should city council decide not to support the agreement, the city could either convert all of the festival park property into a Florida scrub jay habitat at a cost of over $1 million; purchase land through the Florida Scrub Jay compensatory fund at a cost of $8 million; or do nothing, precluding any development of the Festival Park.
If council decides to approve the plan, the city will be issued an incidental take permit, which would cover all of Cape Coral in the event scrub jays pop up in other areas.
“One thing people keep forgetting … the ITP is a city wide permit and any other habitat would be accounted for,” Burr said. “It’s a huge benefit for expansion and for single-family, private property owners.”
City council heard a presentation on this same matter last April, and city staff has been working out the details of the interlocal agreement with Lee County since.
Following another presentation last Monday, Burr said city council will have another opportunity to hear the presentation Monday.
“It’s a very complex process. We’re going to go back and explain how we got to where we are,” Burr said of the forthcoming presentation. “When they (city council) see the pros and cons, it might become easier for them to make a decision.”
Councilmember Marty McClain said city council should vote to accept the plan, as it might save them money in the long run.
“It gives the city 120 square miles of usable property, without ever being burdened by this again,” McClain said. “It’s risk versus reward. The consequences are far larger than the price tag.”