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City Council OKs extended hours for some South Cape businesses

By Staff | Mar 31, 2015

Bars and restaurants in the South Cape won approval from City Council Monday night to extend their Friday and Saturday night operating hours until 4 a.m. during a one-year trial period that could start as soon as this weekend.

Council voted 5-3 on the ordinance before them for a final public hearing. Councilmembers Derrick Donnell, Jim Burch and Rick Williams cast the “no” votes for the same reasons they have expressed from the beginning of discussions almost a year ago – public health, safety and welfare of all citizens.

Bar owners must apply for a special permit as well as pay for off-duty Cape police officers to be on the premises for security reasons, install surveillance systems to monitor activity, comply with the state Responsible Vendor Act, have one dedicated security staff person per 150 patrons and “last call” comes 15 minutes before closing. The permit holders will meet with officials once a month to discuss activity and concerns, and their permit can be suspended or revoked for repeated violations.

According to the presentation by the Cape Police Department, the South District already has the highest incidence of traffic crashes and DUI arrests in the city. The largest number of those occur between midnight and 4 a.m.

“This comes down to data driven statistics,” said Burch, commenting and voting by telephone. “The statistics speaks for itself. There will be an escalation of DUI cases. The data also suggests the hospital ER will be busier, too.”

Before council members had their say on the matter, 24 citizens, bar owners, bar staff, event producers and others stepped to the podium to voice their opinions. The speakers were split down the middle – 22 for, 22 against.

The opinions ran the full gamut of previous discussions from public safety issues to increased DUI incidents; from staff recognition of intoxication to litigation by other establishments in the city not allowed to stay open; from supporting local businesses economically to opening the city up to more visitors to the entertainment district. One cab driver said the longer hours will help his service by enabling cabs to get people home safely from the bars. A hotel manager said her service got higher ratings for location when the online marketing was changed from nearness to beaches to nearness to the bar/entertainment district.

Councilmember Richard Leon, who has spearheaded the ordinance through CRA and council said, “If we start it out right, start it out strong, this ordinance will be leading legislation and could spark something new. We have to have some faith in the businesses to go ahead and try this. It’s an economic opportunity that could help enhance South Cape.”

The ordinance goes into effect on April 3 and will be reviewed monthly until it expires on April 3, 2016.

Other council action

Also Monday night, council voted unanimously to amend its marine improvement ordinance by removing deviation requests from property owners wanting to put up a second boat canopy at their residences. There has been an increase in such requests in recent years and the council wished to eliminate those deviation requests.

Only 50 cases exist in the city where a second canopy was approved. Those properties are grandfathered into the revised ordinance allowing them to be replaced even if the existing canopy becomes damaged or destroyed.

Council approved reappointment for one sitting member for the Cape Coral Charter School Board and elevated Robert Zivkovic to an at-large voting seat held by Marilyn Stout, who has served for nine years. Zivkovic is a parent currently holding a non-voting seat on the board. Both seats on the board were set to expire March 31, 2015. Zivkovic and Odette Boyer’s appointments take effect at the next board meeting.

With only a minimum of discussion, council unanimously approved amending the city’s Institutional District’s Land Use & Development Regulations. The change adds a number of special exception uses for such things as animal shelters, group quarters, wildlife preserves and private parks. The change also paves the way for the proposed kayak training center complex on Lake Kennedy and a proposed shelter by the Gulf Coast Humane Society.

Council members meet in a special workshop session at 4:30 p.m. today at the Nicholas Parkway Annex to discuss the proposed pay range adjustments and pay increases for regular non-bargaining employees.

City Manager John Szerlag has proposed a 10 percent range adjustment for those positions as well as a 5 percent pay increase for 2015. Some council members have opposed the action until after the classification and compensation study is presented.

Public Works personnel also are scheduled to update the status of the city’s street lighting plan for 2015. The city’s operating budget provides for $100,000 to be spent on installing street lights based on priorities. Staff has worked with the Lee County Public School District to identify bus stop areas that need street lights first to make them safer for children.

The next regular council meeting is set for Monday, April 6.