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Council discusses plan to extend bar hours in South Cape district

By Staff | Mar 10, 2015

At the urging of City Councilmember Rana Erbrick, the Cape Coral City Council heard presentations from Councilmember Richard Leon and Cape Police Monday night regarding the proposed extension of bar hours in the South Cape district.

The ordinance was introduced at the meeting specifically to set the public hearing date and council vote at the March 23 meeting. Erbrick wanted the public to hear them for educational purposes and have time to mull it over before the voting meeting in two weeks.

“This is a hot button topic in the city,” said Erbrick. “I just want the public to see what’s going on and decide before we vote on it. We have seen the presentations many times, but not many others have.”

The ordinance, spawned at the CRA board months ago, would allow bars in the South Cape to apply for a permit to stay open two additional hours until 4 a.m., Friday and Saturday nights. The idea is to make the area, primarily along Southeast 47th Terrace, an entertainment destination, create additional jobs and possibly draw visitors across the bridge to eat, drink and be entertained for two additional hours.

“We’ve all received many emails on this,” Erbrick said. “The responses have been mostly con, but a few pro. This is a big change for the city.”

Leon, who helped foster the “one year pilot” ordinance that sunsets April 3, 2016, and is working with staff in writing the rules, gave an updated presentation outlining the application and permit fees, installation of security cameras at the establishments, security and police presence, monthly review meetings with police to monitor DUI and disturbance reports, as well as suspension or revocation of the permit in the event of violations.

The Cape PD’s position points out concerns for public safety, increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the area, an increased use of police services, increases in impaired drivers and blood alcohol content between 2 and 6 a.m. as well as its impact on regular weekend activities in the area, such as church services and the Farmers Market where vendors start setting up as early as 3 a.m.

Each establishment is now required to pay for off-duty police officers and dedicated security personnel for five hours each night at a cost of $250 per night.

Councilmember Jim Burch has been opposed to the idea from the very beginning and has not changed his view.

“We are not Miami or Tampa,” he said. “We are a different animal. I see it as a public safety issue, period. Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. It’s not a matter of if, but when something tragic happens. I just don’t see the economic benefit. Perhaps at another time if the city circumstances change.”

While no votes were cast, other members spoke up on their positions.

Councilmember Derrick Donnell sided with Burch against the ordinance while Mayor Pro Tem John Carioscia, who led the meeting in Mayor Marni Sawicki’s absence, favored giving the measure a try.

“There’s no way to know if a DUI came from a house party or a bar,” Carioscia said. “No one will know for sure unless we try it.”

Council unanimously approved two agenda items up for a vote Monday. A resolution amending the proposed development plan (PDP) for Sunset Lakes, also known as Coral Lakes, a variance from established side yard setback rules to allow for 30 single-family homes with a footprint of 40 feet wide in the subdivision.

“Homes 35 feet wide are no longer marketable,” said Joe Mazurkiewicz of BJM Consulting, representing applicant Lennar Homes. “Everyone is building 40-foot-wide homes and this would help the developers to complete the subdivision. There would be no negative impact to the city and the difference in size would hardly be noticeable with no change to the quality of life of the community.”

The application also turns over roughly 15 acres along the western edge of the property to the city for a future extension of Andalusia Boulevard to Jacaranda Parkway. While the city has no immediate plans to extend Andalusia, it is among the long-term projects by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Mazurkiewicz also informed council that he and the developers met with neighbors in the area that had opposed the changes and the issue was satisfactorily resolved.

“It’s an existing, mixed use development,” said Burch. “I applaud you for meeting with the neighbors to resolve issues and in this case I think this is a good idea.”

“This helps get them closer to taking over the homeowners’ association from the developer,” said Erbrick. “It’s important to get this subdivision moving and finish building single family homes there.”

During council member reports at the end of the meeting, Leon asked council to put the proposal for non-bargaining personnel pay raises and base pay range increase on next week’s council agenda instead of an upcoming workshop meeting. The measure was moved to a workshop session by council just last Monday.

Leon said the purpose of his request was to go ahead and act on it instead of delaying the discussion further. Council is split on adding a 5 percent pay increase and boosting the salary ranges by 10 percent until the classification and compensation study is completed in the next couple of months.

After a lengthy discussion of the matter, council voted down Leon’s request 4-3 with Councilmembers Erbrick, Rick Williams, Burch and Carioscia casting the dissenting votes. The item will be placed on the next workshop session agenda.

Council has set a strategic planning session meeting for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Fire Station 8, 707 S.W. 1st St., which is open to the public. The city’s vision, values and mission will be discussed along with its priority goals through 2017.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, March 16.