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Judd Creek gas station, replat get P&A approval

By Staff | Oct 3, 2012

An expected easy approval turned into a two-hour negotiation over language written six years ago, frustrating a developer to the point where he questioned the city’s business friendliness.

Still, the replatting of 25 acres and a convenience store and gas station at a planned development called Judd Creek were approved unanimously during Wednesday’s Planning and Zoning meeting at City Hall.

Judd Creek, a quarter-mile southwest of the corner of U.S. 41 and Pine Island Road, across from Merchant Crossing, also was granted deviations for palm trees rather than canopy trees to be grown along Pine Island Road and for the size of signage.

But the original PDP order had many deviations because they were faced with competing against unincorporated Lee County and its rules, and Cape Coral had granted variances to allow them to compete.

Since the land lines were being moved, this meant the process technically had to start over again.

“Because of the replat, these issues were brought up again,” said Craig Dearden of Realmark Developers. “It should improve the Pine Island corridor and will hopefully spur development.”

City staff member Mike Struve provided details on the lengthy ordinance, which took nearly an entire page on the agenda, with the main item being a 6,000 sqiare-foot convenience store and 10 pumps for a proposed RaceTrac gas station, the first physical development for Judd Creek.

However, language from a prior meeting in 2006 bogged things down to the point where staff and the developer were at the dais trying to untangle the knots.

“The imaginary street for an imaginary buyer was moved seven years ago, making the imaginary street wider. We took the piece of land with an imaginary size, and their store is bigger than our imaginary size so we had to move the line,” according to developer Will Stout, who added it was an easy request for staff to approve – although they didn’t because they did not have the authority to do so.

Among those who expressed frustration was committee member Max Forgey, who held in his hand a thick sheaf of notes on the subject and dropped it in front of him.

“This has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. I can’t tell you one document from the other,” Forgey said. “It’s out of hand. It needs to be simplified. I don’t want staff to explain it to me.”

Stout even questioned whether Cape Coral is business friendly as it touts.

“The rules are wrong. It costs us lots of money. Are the rules friendly to developers? No. Is Cape Coral business friendly? No,” Stout said.

Eventually, things got untangled and the ordinance passed. But the frustration remained afterward.

“It was a relatively simple case, just too much ancient history that didn’t need to be in the packet,” Forgey said. “I have a personal frustration when applicants and staff are working out changes while at the dais. But we got it done.”

“The staff doesn’t have the ability to change those orders, so you have to go through a PDP revision,” Stout said. “We had to make sure the microchanges didn’t affect the big changes we made six years ago. We need someone with the ability to make common-sense decisions.

“The department heads and staff are pro-business. But they’re working under guidelines that are antiques. They don’t have the flexibility to match up with the real world.” Stout said.

Judd Creek is 200 acres and is expected to include 1,100 units of multi-family dwellings and 200,000 square feet of commercial space on the road front.