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Council reviews Seven Islands options

By Staff | Apr 8, 2016

The Cape Coral City Council had its first discussion on the five concepts for the Seven Islands, and the elected board liked elements in each.

In the end, council seemed split between two concepts, one of which may not sit too well with the neighborhood association if implemented in its entirety.

Council met with the consultants and heard public comments on the Seven Islands and the Northwest Cape on Wednesday during its monthly workshop meeting, which was moved from the Nicholas Street Annex to council chambers at City Hall to accommodate what was expected to be a packed house.

That didn’t quite materialize, but there were still plenty of people who expressed their opinions.

Among them was Denis Catalano, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, who expressed his satisfaction in how the process has gone while reiterating his group’s request for no high rises.

In the end, he realized the ball game has just gotten under way.

“We’re in the bottom of the first inning. I think contrary to what you’ve heard, the NWNA do represent the majority if our members,” Catalano said. “No high rises, but three stories, not bad.”

Of course, there were also some who wanted nothing done at all, such as Nancy Hindenach, who said most of the residents want the area to remain a natural or park-like setting.

“We came here because it’s natural, the rest want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” Hindenach said. “The Northwest Cape and Matlacha are among the few places that still have the mangrove fringe and natural environment that brings us peace.”

Representatives from CPH Consulting, led by Javier Omana, showed the five options to council and asked them to review the concepts and prioritize them, so they can be put in a report for final approval.

Concept A, was based on current city guidelines, while Concept B was based on community input. The final three were CPH options, which included higher density, high rises and heavy commercial nodes.

Council members had something positive to say about all five concepts. In the end they leaned toward the concept the community chose, with some elements from Concept C and E, which included limited high-rise ability.

Councilmember Jim Burch lauded the property, saying it is a “privilege” to have it. He also had some concerns.

“Option B requires a lot of water changes. A lot of dredging needs to be done and will require lots of mitigation,” Burch said. “I’ll be satisfied with anything we choose. The opportunity is incredible.”

Seven Islands was part of a controversial 652-acre, $13.1 million land purchase in 2012 that looks like a bargain now. The next step is to get the bang for the buck without resorting to concepts at either end of the gamut – a high-rise resort or nothing at all.

“They’re dreaming because the city didn’t buy it to have nothing. We’re realists. We know something will go there, so let’s do the best we can,” Catalano said.

Councilmember John Carioscia said he enjoyed all the concepts, but chose B because he agrees with the neighbors regarding building height and green space, and absolutely wants a marina.

“I think six stories is a compromise. We don’t want the intensity of 12 or build something that won’t be sufficient for the totality of the effort and cost of the land,” Carioscia said. “I’m not against a marina or museum, but I’m headstrong on some form of marina. Ten years from now I don’t want to look at it and think we should have done more.”

Councilmember Rana Erbrick said the eventual concept will likely involve pieces of all five concepts.

“I think you need pieces of all of them to offset some of the open space and walkability everyone desires,” Erbrick said. “We’ll have to pay for that somehow and some density will allow us to do that.”

Omana called this first meeting with council a great litmus test, and thought they had great commentary on the plans.

“The council recognizes the plans for Seven Islands are spot on to the participation element from the northwest residents,” Omana said. “The direction we received was spot on and we clearly know what to do.”

Future plans will have common threads such as open space, environmental sensitivity, complete streets and a tradeoff between intensity/density and compatibility.

The city of Cape Coral has set up an online voting feature to solicit input from the community on the proposed design concepts for the Northwest Cape / 7 Islands Vision Plan. The consultant submitted five proposed design concepts, which were developed after input from various stakeholders at several community meetings. The concepts are posted on a special voting page on Northwest Cape / 7 Islands web page: www.capecoral.net/islandvote. The page also can be accessed from the main NW Cape / 7 Islands page: www.capecoral.net/sevenislands.

The five concepts with city staff’s associated reviews are posted along with a “Summary Matrix.” After viewing and evaluating the five concepts, voters can submit a first choice and second choice.