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Updated: Council mulls properties sought for UEP

By Staff | Dec 4, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story has been corrected to clarify the quotes of Cape Coral property broker Dawn Andrews.

Cape Coral City Council discussed six resolutions of necessity regarding land it needs to construct two pump stations and four lift stations for the city’s Southwest 6&7 utilities expansion project during Monday’s workshop meeting at City Hall.

The biggest question council had was how to compensate those who would have their properties taken and/or used.

Cape Coral property broker Dawn Andrews, who said the resolutions of necessity had to be done individually for legal reasons, said she reached out to all the owners.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail asked if she had negotiated for a sale or offered a land swap.

Andrews said the city had offered one property owner a freshwater canal site in exchange for the property needed. That owner requested a saltwater canal site in trade. To make the offer value-for-value, the owner would have needed to add cash to the deal.

“We need money in the deal as well,” she said.

The trade was not been made.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said the city can’t afford to throw money at the solution, what with all the land it already owns.

“We have the ability to swap lots with the purchase we made this year. The city is the city’s biggest land owner,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “If we give someone half an acre for a quarter-acre, let’s be creative. We don’t need to spend more money.”

Fourteen of the 18 properties for the needed lift stations were acquired, but the city was unable to negotiate with the remaining four.

Andrews said the city would take the land by eminent domain for easement interest, meaning they wouldn’t take ownership of the property, but have use of a 30-foot by 30-foot area to build the lift station while the owner would maintain ownership of the entire property.

Andrews said she preferred to buy the entire property for such purposes. Chulakes-Leetz questioned why the city would put a lift station in plain sight on someone’s land.

“Don’t we negate the value of the property. A lift station turns the property into junk,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “It’s unattractive and doesn’t say much for our engineering.”

Andrews was asked after the meeting what a lift station was and what the city does to mitgate any impacts.

“It’s an above-ground structure low to the ground. You can landscape around it,” Andrews said. “In our acquisition we have included landscaping or seed money. It depends on how we end up with a final stipulation.”

City Manager John Szerlag said Andrews doesn’t judge what the best properties are – that is based on need – or whether to do a land swap.

“Those decisions need to be made by council,” Szerlag said.

The canal pump station properties are:

Lots 4 and 5, Block 1913, Unit 28, 714 S.W. 15th St., Appraised value $9,500. Lots 6 and 7, Block 1913, Unit 28, 710 S.W. 15th St., Appraised value $9,500.

The lift station properties are:

937 S.W. 6th Court, appraised value $1,261.

833 S.W. 20th St., Appraised value $1,261.

1423 S.W. 20th St., Appraised value $1,261.

1602 S.W. 18th Lane, Appraised value $1,332.

Andrews said no deals have been made as of yet. The public input date and final vote will be Monday.

Also, John McLean, the city’s IT director, presented Szerlag with an award the city earned for being one of the best digital city governments in the country.

Cape Coral finished second in the nation behind Salt Lake City, Utah, as the best-run digital government among cities between 125,000 and 250,000 residents.

“I did nothing to contribute to this. In Cape Coral we have a culture of professionalism. It personifies what we’re about,” Szerlag said.