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Council rejects land sale offer, but may work with local business

By Staff | Jul 23, 2013

A restaurant owner looking to help his booming business didn’t get much from the Cape Coral City Council during its regular meeting at city hall on Monday, at least for now.

That doesn’t mean the city will completely turn its back on Miceli’s, a bustling restaurant in Matlacha. It’s just not going to sell them a piece of land to improve its parking crisis.

The city council voted 6-2 to reject an offer from the restaurant to buy a third of an acre of property the city bought last year as part of a $13 million, 652-acre land buy.

But the city also kept its options open to perhaps lease the land to Miceli’s or even have a Request for Proposal issued on the property.

No decision was made in that matter, but that the board seriously entertained the notion to help was somewhat encouraging.

Miceli’s was willing to pay $474,000 for the land and the owners, along with their representative, Realtor Steve Cunnngham, came out to plead their case.

“Business is booming, but the parking is atrocious. We needed to buy property, and a faux pas was made,” Cunningham said before making the offer to council. “The Micelis are young and ambitious and trying to grow. They just need a little push to grow further.”

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said he felt their pain, but the land wasn’t for sale because the city was still doing inventory on the package of properties it bought last year, thus to sell now would be premature.

“We can work on a year-to-year agreement to solve your problem. It’s an immediate solution to an immediate problem,” McGrail said.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, on the other hand, called the offer too good to refuse, saying after spending so much on the purchase, the city had a chance to get an amazing return on its investment.

“We would be getting back 1/26th of our investment for such a small piece of land. I support the sale,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

Mayor John Sullivan had different reasons for wanting to sell the property, saying the city has an obligation to help business and create jobs.

“I don’t think anyone here wants to stifle jobs. We spend great money to attract businesses and we’re not helping them,” Sullivan said. “It’s a contradiction on our part.”

Steve Pohlman, Parks & Rec director, said the city had hopes to use the boat ramps on the property the city bought and perhaps create a Yacht Club in the north.

But short of that, many on the council seemed willing to help the restaurant and agreed with McGrail’s idea to help the restaurant solve its problem.

But there was also the feeling it had to contain language for an RFP, such as what happened with the lease at the former K-C’s River Stop.

“I would support a lease, but not without an RFP. I’m concerned about inconsistent policy making,” Chulakes-Leetz said.

Council voted to reject the offer, but made a motion to help the business find solutions to its problem, which passed unanimously.

In April, Miceli’s made an offer to the city to purchase six parcels for $1.5 million.

The Miceli’s had no comment afterward.