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Cape land purchase has Pine islanders wary

By Staff | Apr 28, 2012

Now that the city has purchased 652 acres of foreclosed land, many people are asking what’s next.

Perhaps none more so than those on Pine Island, who are especially concerned about the land Cape Coral got with its $13 million bid and what the city has in store for them.

Among the properties purchased were the “little islands” in the northwest corner and the waterfront land on Matlacha Isles adjacent to State Road 78 on the north side.

While any decision is still many months in the distance, Pine Islanders are afraid the Cape could sell the land to a developer which then could turn pristine, environmentally sensitive areas into high rises.

Cape Coral Councilmember Derrick Donnell did not discount the fears but said they are very premature at best.

“Anything that happens in your neighborhood isn’t unfounded. We have no plans as we speak,” Donnell said. “They are premature about worrying. At this juncture, there are no worries about anything to the negative. Stay tuned.”

City spokesperson Connie Barron said it’s too early in the ballgame to say what will become of the properties.

“We have no idea what the use will be. We’ve owned the property for three weeks,” Barron said. “It will take six to 12 months to inspect all the properties and see what the potential uses will be.”

But one Pine Island resident, Phil Buchanan, an environmentalist, is worried the city might sell the “Matlacha property” to a developer who then could turn them into high-rises and shopping centers.

“This is prime real estate. It’s not made for wastewater,” Buchanan said. “It should be used as waterfront.”

The city funded the land purchase primarily with capital improvement money designated for utility expansion and stormwater retention. With the city’s Utility Expansion Project set to restart, city officials said they could save money by buying at foreclosure rates rather than going the eminent domain route, which requires the city pay market value for any sites needed for infrastructure.

Buchanan, although not too concerned with the “little islands,” is concerned with what he called Cape Coral’s “annex” of Pine Island and Matlacha.

“The Cape is threatening to annex all or parts of Pine Island,” Buchanan said. “They’ve already made an effort to annex Matlacha Isles.”

Barron said any speculation on what happens to the lands next is conjecture.

However, she added she wasn’t sure the city would even find a high-rise to be a good use fit.

“The islands are on the spreader canal. They’re not positioned on the Caloosahatchee or Charlotte Harbor,” Barron said. “It’s not a huge body of water. I’m not sure it would be a match.

“That’s what the evaluation is designed to accomplish.”

Since the purchase, the islands have been brought up as a possible place to send fishermen during the debate over fishing on city bridges.