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Szerlag called on to lead quickly at first meeting

By Staff | Jun 5, 2012

New city manager John Szerlag got a nice round of applause upon being introduced at the beginning of the city council’s workshop Monday at City Hall.

Some also found it amusing that the first person called to the dais during discussion of the consent items was his interim predecessor Steve Pohlman, who said he was happy to be on the other side again.

But once the meeting got in full swing, it became obvious the honeymoon is going to be a short-lived one as council made clear it expected much from him.

Overall, Szerlag was pleased with how things went and said he’s up to the challenge.

“We have a tremendous staff, and I saw a very good culture of professionals here,” Szerlag said. “The issues are not entirely new to anyone who has development experience.”

Meanwhile, an issue that reared its head unexpectedly was citizen complaint about the “overordinancing “of the Cape and how regulation has driven people away from the city.

Gordon Ulch, who complained about the fertilizer ordinance that mandates no fertilizer can be used within 10 feet from a canal, said he is suffering from “ordinance overload.”

“You’ve mandated desolation along the canals. Who’s going to enforce this? The fertilizer police?” Ulch asked.

“If you’re going to make an ordinance, make sure you can enforce it,” said Eric King.

An ordinance that prohibits people from parking commercial vehicles in their driveways was revisited again, and this time, Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz was receptive.

“This ordinance is driving away business. We can’t burden workers with ordinances. Families have to move because of the restrictions,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “I may bring an ordinance for a moratorium on the vehicles. I’d rather keep tradespeople in town.”

Mayor John Sullivan agreed, saying it has become a problem.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said the ordinances are there for a reason.

“There’s a difference between a police car and a work truck. I also don’t inflict my toys on others and I expect my neighbors to do the same,” McGrail said, referring to the ordinances concerning RVs and boats.

In other business, Cape Coral Fire Chief Bill Van Helden requested council to purchase a new four-door chassis for Rescue 2 at a cost of $84,368. The vehicle is eight years old and needs work.

Also, planning team co-ordinator Mike Sosnowski gave the city council a presentation on the city’s comprehensive plan and its future buildout.

According to staff analysis, 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 4 percent.

Also discussed were ordinances for a sidewalk on Souhwest 20th Avenue between Trafalgar and Veterans parkways and a resolution continuing the existence of the Transportation Advisory Commission and the Golf Course Advisory Board.