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City wants to be free member of regional planning council

By Staff | Aug 29, 2011

The Cape Coral City Council seems to be leaning toward remaining a member of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, but only if it can do so for free.

Planning Council Interim Director Liz Donley said she will be meeting with county officials in the coming days to learn more about an interlocal agreement that gave some Lee County municipalities the option of having a free seat at the table.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said a state statute dictates that the Regional Planning Council provide “technical assistance” to the municipalities within its purview whether a paying member or not.

Regardless, there seemed to be little favor continuing to pay the $50,000 a year the city of Cape Coral pays for the privilege of membership.

“Retaining membership without paying accomplishes the objective, which is saving 50,000,” Councilember Kevin McGrail said.

Mayor John Sullivan said the city could save money but still have representation by Lee County Commissioners, two of which currently sit on the planning council.

The city of Sarasota previously did just that, remove itself from paying and participating in the planning council, letting its county representatives do the talking.

Donley said that Sarasota is now interested in rejoining the council.

The planning council is also in the process of reinventing itself somewhat, as it searches for a new director.

Councilmember Pete Brandt said while the planning council works through that process, council could also demonstrate how a membership benefits the city of Cape Coral.

“The best of all possible worlds would be the city kept on the free seat next year and during that time the RPC can demonstrate it’s value to the city,” Brandt said.