Residents gets first take on Northwest Cape vision
By CHUCK BALLARO
Residents in the northwest section of Cape Coral had a lot to digest, but all the data they got will go a long way toward determining the future of the area.
Residents, city officials and staff crammed into the cafeteria at Christa McAuliffe Charter School Thursday for a town hall meeting to begin the discussion on a vision plan for the Northwest Cape and the Seven Islands.
Not only did residents hear from project consultants from CPH about the data it collected, they also got the chance to give the consultants an earful on things that may not have considered.
The vision plan is focused on two key areas in the city: the northwest Cape and the Seven Islands, which includes seven waterfront parcels purchased by the city in the controversial $13.3 million land deal in 2012, and totaling 48 acres and 46 adjoining properties.
The purchase, which was heavily criticized when it happened, looks like a bargain now, with a current value of $22.1 million. The North Spreader property alone is worth more than $2 million from the $818,000 purchase price.
“The city has an opportunity to enlarge its income stream. The city is looking at a lot of great things,” said consultant Greg Stewart.
While the Seven Islands is only part of the vision, it is perhaps the most important, with the potential it could have for development.
Among the pros the area has, according to the analysis, is that it has a strong street and canal grid, a connection to open space and conservation lands, vacant land, city-owned land and recreational uses.
Among the challenges are flood zones, poor soil, the lack of sidewalks, diverse uses, urban forests, activity nodes and water quality.
Another problem for the Seven Islands is that the lack of area limits the options. However, it is well situated for boats and has extraordinary views.
These ideas and data will be put to good use during a three-day charrette that is scheduled for Nov. 4-6, when everything will be put onto paper for the first time.
“A plan is only as good as the ideas from stakeholder and city staff,” Stewart said.
During the Q&A session, residents had a lot to chime in on. One resident suggested that sidewalks and bike paths may not be an option for people who can do neither and suggested golf carts, which are popular in Ave Maria and Boca Grande.
Another was concerned the northwest Cape could turn into South Cape with tiki bars open all night. She said she didn’t want her neighborhood to become a destination like she said some members of City Council have suggested, with restaurants, a boardwalk and multi-family homes.
“We want this to be our home. We came here for the quiet,” one resident chimed in.
All the plans will be documented into a final vision plan, set for March 2016.
Consultant Chris Hite said she hopes residents got an idea of the scope of the data gathering.
“As we take the data and go through the analysis, I think it will become more clear to people what the data means,” Hite said. “A lot will happen and be discovered at the charrette. It will be an exciting three days.”
Consultant Jeff Satfield said the meeting was to set people up for the charrettes and give them things to think about, especially Seven Islands.
“This was to present the raw data and to define the vision for the Seven Islands, which is the meat and potatoes of what we’re doing,” Satfield said. The larger context was a broad brush of how the Seven Islands is in the northwest.
Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association president Denis Catalano said he thought the consultants were doing their due diligence.
“We’ve been involved right from the beginning. There were a lot of good things that came up. I think the Spreader Canal has to be part of the vision,” Catalano said. “If you don’t include that, you’re missing the boat.”
Catalano’s group gave the consultants ideas of what they wanted, low-rise housing as opposed to high rises that some people may want for Seven Islands. Catalano said the answer probably lies in between.
Councilmember John Carioscia said the meeting was a great first step, one that shows further proof that the land purchase was worth doing.
“This is where we have to start. We get feedback from the residents and we go from there,” Carioscia said. “We knew when we bought the land that it was assessed at $20 million. So, it was a win-win. The land we need for parks, fire stations and everything else we got at a fire sale price. The rest we’ll sell and put back on the tax rolls.”