Council approves Stonewater development, Gulf Coast Humane Society shelter proposal
Yes, City Council unanimously approved a proposed single-family gated development in Northwest Cape, but the real stars of Monday’s meeting were of the four-legged variety.
As has been talked about for several months, council approved a proposal by Gulf Coast Humane Society to build the city’s first animal shelter on city-owned property near the Skate Park and Austen Youth Center north of Lake Kennedy. Council approved staff entering negotiations for a long-term lease of the land to the shelter.
“This is long overdue,” said Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who made the motion to negotiate a lease. “There is a real need for it.”
Councilmember Jim Burch chimed in, “There is certainly a need with a capital N.”
Councilmember Richard Leon even proposed the city sell the land for a dollar, but the shelter preferred a lease agreement.
Gulf Coast Humane Society executive director Jennifer Galloway addressed council with facts and information. She said the $2 million building will consist of an 8,000 to 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility with room for future expansion. It will house up to 60 dogs in large indoor and outdoor kennels plus up to 30 cats in cat rooms, not cages. It will include an interactive play area for visitors seeking to adopt to get to know the animal.
Other amenities include a conference room, offices and a full service veterinary clinic that will be open to the public by offering low cost veterinary care for their pets.
The Gulf Coast Humane Society performed more than 2,400 spay/neuter procedures in 2014 at its Fort Myers location, which will continue operating when the Cape location is up and running in three to five years. The society does not accept lost or stray pets – those go to Lee County Animal Services – but they will accept pets surrendered by their owners no longer able to care for them because for a variety of reasons, including the owner’s passing.
“We are a no-kill, non-profit shelter,” said Galloway. “We rely on donations and grants for funding. We accept no federal, state or county government funds. We rely solely on the communities we serve.”
Galloway received many congratulatory hugs from her board, staff and volunteers who attending the meeting.
“I was nervous at the beginning,” she said. “Now I’m excited that I can go work hard on this project. We always have a waiting list for dogs and cats and our shelter is always at capacity. This shelter will bring several jobs and volunteer opportunities to the city.”
Joe Mazurkiewicz, president of BJM Consulting representing Gulf Coast, said, “We will wait until the first round of negotiations on the lease is over before we start the PDP process. I expect we will be ready for that within 60 days.”
Galloway said several fund-raising events already have been held in the Cape, including once a month at Cape Harbour called “Yuppy Hour.” When the shelter is able to open the facility depends on the fund-raising efforts.
Concerning that residential development approved by council, the proposal asked for several deviations, rezoning and a special exception to the city’s Land Use Development Regulations (LUDR) in order to build 337 single-family homes, most with lake or preserve views, two recreation centers and public recreation areas on 150 of the property’s 201 available acres. The rest consists of lakes, open space and an eagle’s nest preservation area. The project known as Stonewater is located in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Tropicana Parkway and Nelson Road, just east of Mariner High School.
The project, the second in Lee County for Windham Development, calls for smaller lots (6,250 square feet instead of 10,000), shorter setbacks in front (22 feet), back (10 feet) and sides (5 feet). Developers compared the project to Sandoval on several occasions.
The property was rezoned residential development from a combination of agricultural and commercial activity center zoning. The special exception covers allowing up to 20 model homes on the property.
Staff recommended approval with conditions stated, including completing all infrastructure and utilities in Phase 1 before starting construction on Phase 2.
Area residents voiced their concerns with the project over traffic issues and the schools’ ability to absorb possibly 600 or more new students. A resident of Sandoval shared problems he is enduring with limited parking within the development. Smaller lot sizes, he said, shorten driveways and limits the number of vehicles able to park there; narrower streets limits curbside parking and restricts garbage truck and emergency vehicle access.
City staff responded to the traffic issues, pointing out that the city did conduct a traffic study which found no negative impact to area roadways and infrastructure. The Lee County School District also assured the city the nearby schools are equipped to handle additional student population.
Fire Service Assessment
Before adjourning, City Manager John Szerlag informed council that with the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the city’s methodology used for the Fire Services Assessment case last week that he will revisit the FSA plan to review priorities.
“The document is 2 years old,” Szerlag said.”We want to make sure of our justifications for the capital expenditures. We currently hold some $23 million in FSA escrow. My goal is to bring it to council by June 1.”
The next council meeting is May 18.