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Planning for the future: Land-use makeup back on the table

By Staff | Jun 2, 2012

Cape Coral was created to be a haven for homes, a place for families to get away from the cold cities and enjoy a slice of paradise.

According to one planner, that image may have to be altered a little.

On Monday, during the city council’s workshop meeting, officials will hear and discuss the latest build-out analysis which shows a city, while still largely residential, loaded with open spaces with very little area dedicated to industrial.

During 2010, the city completed numerous large-scale future land use amendments, converting residential land use to non-residential. Council asked staff to provide an analysis and a long-term projection of future buildout.

According to Mike Sosnowski, planning team coordinator, the presentation is to brief the council on the current Comprehensive Plan and where following that plan will lead the city.

“It’s a projection of the dwelling and non-residential floor area, an inventory of what we have left in open land,” Sosnowski said. “It summarizes the opportunities for various land uses.”

During the discussion, Derek Burr is expected to provide council a presentation on where the city stands on land in four key areas moving forward.

Monday’s presentation will focus on inventory for existing dwelling units, dwelling unit types and non-residential floor area, low and theoretical maximum projections for residential and non-residential, and a summary of current apportionment of future land use classifications.

According to their analysis, which can be viewed online, in the meeting agenda posted at capecoral.net, 59 percent of future land use is dedicated to residential, with 24 percent toward open space, parks, preserves and public facilities.

Mixed-use of commercial/ residential is 13 percent, with commercial/industrial taking up the final 4 percent.

The percentage of open space is one factor that could be put under scrutiny.

“We’re blessed by the state owning significant land in Cape Coral, mostly wetlands, mangroves,” Sosnowski said. “We want to show that the open space doesn’t pay our tax base.”

Of the open space, the largest percentages are in the western side of the city, according to the findings.

What pays is industry, which – in a city where 90 percent of the tax base is residential and 60 percent of the workforce work outside the city, Sosnowski said – is desperately needed.

Therefore, it may be necessary to change the plan to put industry in where mixed use is, or think outside the box.

“We’ll think about it if it’s appropriate. We can expand industrial, but it’s difficult to do that,” Sosnowski said. “We need business parks. We need a turnover from construction workforces to employment centers. Let’s not give up the land to residential and retail.”

The northeast quadrant has the biggest potential for industry because of its access to the transportation corridor (U.S. 41, Pine Island Road), while the southeast has the least (and hardest to change) commercial promise, since it’s so developed, Sosnowski said.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz is looking forward to the discussion, but is more worried about the here and now.

“It’ll be nice to talk about, but I’m a realist. It’ll be a hundred years before I anticipate a buildout,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “New York City isn’t built out and it’s been there 200 years.”