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Council OKs zoning changes, more for Bella Vida

By Staff | Dec 2, 2015

Zoning changes and regulation variances requested by the developers of the Bella Vida community in northeast Cape Coral won approval from City Council at Monday night’s meeting.

The changes involved 109 lots from conjoined residences (townhomes) to single-family residential. Developers told council the reason for the request is rooted in the local demand for single-family homes and that they had not pulled a single permit for a townhome since 2009.

City staff recommended approval of the amendments to the existing Planned Development Project since most of the remaining lots on the 165-acre site also are single-family homes and bears no impact on the public health, safety and welfare.

Deviations requested were approved for minimum lot size of 7,699 square feet, 59-foot width, front setback of 20 feet and a side setback of 5 feet.

Council also approved a resolution accepting a $25,000 grant from the Highway Safety Fund of the Florida Department of Transportation for use in reducing the number of traffic crashes involving impaired drivers. Cape Coral Police recently concluded a series of DUI operations over the summer that included two DUI checkpoints and a dozen other high visibility enforcement operations. Those operations resulted in 61 arrests, 47 of them for DUI.

Officers told council that there have been 13 crashes in the city this year resulting in fatalities. Eight of those involved impaired drivers. The city has seen a 14 percent increase in traffic crashes between 2012 and 2014, the latest years for which there is data. In 40 percent of those traffic investigations resulting in a fatality or serious injuries alcohol was a factor.

Council also took another step toward creating a hearing examiner for appeals of Planning & Zoning Commission decisions, which was recommended by the Zucker Report of 2013. A hearing examiner is touted to be a more efficient method of resolving development variance, special exception, deviation and rezoning requests.

Council approved the hiring of Anne Dalton, a Fort Myers attorney, to be the future hearing examiner and established compensation at a rate of $225 per hour for hearing cases and $112.50 per hour to make site visits and travel time. The resolution budgeted $75,000 for the position for Fiscal Year 2016.

Department of Community Development Director Vince Cautero told council that the P&Z commission will remain viable in hearing all of the cases just as in the past.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who serves as council’s liaison to the commission.

Council’s action paves the way for Cautero to finish the language for the ordinance making the hearing examiner’s position official. He expects to bring the ordinance to council as soon as next April.

Council has scheduled a special workshop session for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Nicholas Annex building.

Topics up for discussion include updates on the Bimini Basin and Northwest Cape/Seven Islands Vision Plan projects as well as a report on the city’s Economic Development master plan.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.