Council shows support for Caloosahatchee watershed report
City Council voted unanimously Monday night to fully support the Caloosahatchee Watershed White Paper report that is the fruit of the labor of a group of Southwest Florida government and scientific individuals headed up by Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane.
Ruane addressed council at the meeting to bring them up to date on the project. He said it was the group’s task to identify the issues on the west coast of Florida and to find a unified purpose and address the region’s water needs with the South Florida Water Management District, as well as state and federal legislators.
“We get too much water in the rainy season and we need water during the dry season, but the west coast has not received the proper balance of what we need,” Ruane said. “We have to come together as one collective body to get legislation and solutions to our water quality issues. This area did not become one voice in this until two years ago and now, for the first time, we have 47 agencies, cities and counties together to sign off on this White Paper and take it to the water managers to show them our case. I’m asking you tonight for your approval as a council to support this effort.”
Council hardly hesitated to extend that support with an 8-0 vote, agreeing with Ruane that local jobs and tourism and the economy are at stake.
Tourism in Lee County generates more than $2.7 billion annually. Real estate tax revenue runs more than $293 million each year.
A recent Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau poll indicated that 94 percent of all visitors to Lee County identified our beaches as the most attractive asset.
Lots purchase approved
Council also voted unanimously to approve the purchase of lots in Unit 43 as the city continues to assemble a large parcel for the proposed Festival Park project off Wilmington Parkway just east of Chiquita Boulevard. Of the 517 parcels that make up the park’s acreage, the city now owns or controls 407 parcels.
The contract for purchase approved Monday night will cost the city $8,950, including closing costs. Council encouraged the real estate division staff to continue to assemble the properties as quickly as possible as prices begin to rise again.
Council also released information that the city’s new Domestic Partnership Registry will be up and running on Thursday. Unmarried couples can begin registering at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall during regular business hours. The fee to register is $50.
Council approved the registry at its Nov. 3 meeting, joining dozens of other municipalities and counties in Florida electing to provide specific rights to unmarried couples whether same sex or of opposite sex. Lee County and Fort Myers have not enacted legislation for a registry.
Registration forms are available on the city’s website (www.capecoral.net) under the “latest city news” section.
Other council action
In other actions taken at Monday’s meeting, Councilmember John Carioscia was elected Mayor Pro Tem for the coming year. He takes over from Rana Erbrick, who held the position for two years.
Council liaison positions on various city and county boards, commissions and committees came up for changes or renewal.
“I’d like to maintain the boards that I am on,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “I think it is best to maintain a certain continuity and relationship with the people on those boards.”
That opinion resonated throughout the members and the panel voted unanimously to continue serving on the same boards they currently are assigned.
They also approved council’s meeting schedule for 2015 and added a workshop meeting to be held on the first Wednesday each month provided there is a worthy agenda topic up for discussion.
Lastly, Economic Development Director Dana Brunett polled council on how it wanted to proceed on the Mid-Cape Industrial Park CRA proposal. The request came from the consulting firm doing the study, Real Estate Research Consultants.
“Would you prefer to put an advisory board in place to continue or use a focus group?” Brunett asked.
“I think a focus group is best,” said Erbrick. “Then perhaps we can recruit from the focus group to form the advisory board when the time comes.”
Council unanimously agreed. Brunett said the matter would be ready as an agenda introduction item for the Dec. 1 meeting and to set the public hearing date for Dec. 8.
Council’s next meeting is Monday, Nov. 17.