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Council discusses funding options for scrub jay mitigation plan

By Staff | Oct 31, 2012

How to pay for a council-approved plan to create habitat for an endangered species found where the city of Cape Coral hopes to develop a park drew additional discussion Monday.

At a workshop that started three hours late due to delays caused by discussion concerning the city absorption of the downtown Community Redevelopment Agency, council discussed funding option for the nearly $800,000 cost of a mitigation plan for Florida scrub jay habitat in Alva. Council is considering a study to explore a “reasonable and appropriate” environmental fee or assessment on Cape properties.

When Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz asked what the cost of the study would be, city Business Manager Mike Ilczyszyn said that had not yet been determined.

Chulakes-Leetz countered by saying if Ilczyszyn was asking council, it had to be more than $50,000 because the city manager can authorize up to $50,000 on his own.

“Have we considered getting this done pro-bono? And have we offended the CCCIA pro-bono?” Chulakes-Leetz said.

Mayor John Sullivan wondered aloud what the scrub jays’ habitat was, since he said people see them all the time.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said it’s a citywide issue, regardless of where the protected birds are currently found.

“It’s an insurance policy for anyone who does construction anywhere. It’s blanket mitigation,” Councilmember Kevin McGrail said. “We don’t have to do studies on an individual basis, which saves homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.”

Final public input will be held at next Monday’s regular meeting.

The mitigation comes as a result of plans to build Festival Park on 215 acres north of Pine Island Road, where scrub jay families have been found.

The funds will be paid over a four-year period, from 2014-18.

In other business, a land-use amendment changing certain properties from Commercial Activity Center and Commercial/Professional to single family residential on the intersection of Chiquita Boulevard and Trafalgar Parkway was discussed.

After two years, the council is correcting what some say was an error in judgment on their part concerning the land use near a neighborhood on Southwest 15th Place.

The land is already zoned residential, but state laws dictate the land use and zoning match.

Because the zoning and land use don’t match, the discrepancy has prevented people from getting permits for seawalls or building a house.

Also discussed was a consent item to waive the bidding process for the purchase of replacement survey and GPS equipment from Lengemann Corporation for $125,000. The item was set aside in the budget form 2012.

Police Chief Jay Murphy presented council with approval for participation in the Methamphetamine hazardous waste storage container program between the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement and the city and a grant to allow the department to purchase mobile fingerprint readers to officers on the beat.