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City may withdraw from regional planning council

By Staff | Aug 16, 2011

City Council is expected to vote next week on whether it should continue as a member of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, a decision that could save the city $50,000.

Mayor John Sullivan said he’s served on the board for two years and has found little advantage for the price tag.

Sullivan is the one driving the initiative to vacate the seat. As a voting member, the city of Cape Coral gets one vote.

“I saw absolutely nothing that came out of it,” Sullivan said. “I’m sorry it wasn’t shut down sooner. It should have been done a long time ago.”

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council includes governmental representatives from Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry and Sarasota counties and provides planning and inter-governmental coordination, according to its website.

Liz Donley, interim director for the planning council, asked the mayor to reconsider the decision until a permanent director could be put in place. Donley said the search for the director could be start soon.

The city of Cape Coral pays more than any other municipality for its membership, according to Donley, which is based on population. Donley said it equates to roughly 30 cents per person.

Sullivan said the city already has two representatives on the council in County Commissioners John Manning and Tammy Hall.

“We can execute what we need to through them,” Sullivan said. “We can also go down to citizens input and let them know what we’re thinking.”

Councilmember Marty McClain said he’s had difficulty understanding the value of the membership, but thinks the networking opportunities afforded the city as a member of the council are important. McClain said those relationships could be invaluable once the city finally hires an Economic Development Director.

“Once we make this decision to hire an EDO director, I’d like to know how they feel about it,” McClain said.

Sullivan said the city pays its dues quarterly to the Regional Planning Council. The mayor said he stopped payment on a check for $12,000 until the council decided how they wanted to proceed.

Councilmember Erick Kuehn said he’d prefer to have his own voice on the planning council instead of relying on others to speak for the city.

“We’ve had one vote and that’s more than what we can count on when we count on two other people who would allegedly vote for us,” Kuehn said.

Councilman Kevin McGrail said he’d like the planning council to have more of a focus.

“There’s benefits to regional representation but the RPC lacks focus,” McGrail said.