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City Council reconsiders, approves manatee protection ordinance

By Staff | Apr 26, 2016

After voting last week to save the state’s black bear from being hunted, but rejecting a local manatee protection zone in Northwest Cape, City Council members had a change of heart and passed the manatee ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

Councilmember Richard Leon added to Monday’s agenda a motion to reconsider the manatee protection ordinance rejected last week. Leon was one of four on council who voted to deny the zone a week ago.

Another, Councilmember Marilyn Stout, said she received new information about the Cape Police Department’s inability to ticket speeding boaters that changed her mind.

“Several things were missing and I thought several other things could have been done better,” Stout said. “I’ve spoken to our marine patrol officer and I didn’t realize they could not write tickets. The only way to ticket offenders is by making it a manatee protection area.”

Councilmember Jim Burch, an ordinance supporter, said all of the information was available last week, but if someone on council wanted additional information they should have asked for the public hearing to be tabled.

“I don’t like reconsidering votes, period,” said Burch. “It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t sound good.”

Burch pointed out council’s misstep, “Last week we voted to save the black bears in this state from being hunted. We have no black bears in Cape Coral. Then we voted not to protect the manatees, which we do have. It didn’t make sense.”

Council voted 7-1 on Leon’s motion to reconsider the ordinance with Councilmember Rana Erbrick dissenting on the grounds that it seemed more about property protection than manatee protection.

A re-vote to deny the ordinance was unanimously rejected. Leon then made the motion to approve the manatee ordinance, which passed unanimously.

Police Chief Bart Connelly assured Erbrick and council that the Northwest Spreader Canal system would be patrolled for four hours once or twice a week or when called by public complaint. Violators of the new manatee no-wake speed zone would be warned initially in an effort to educate the public.

In other action, council approved the purchase of a pair of lots on Wilmington Parkway in the amount of $9,400 to continue assembling parcels for the Festival Park project. It gives the city 410 of the 517 parcels needed to begin construction of park amenities, such as an amphitheater and sports facilities. The city Parks & Recreation Department currently is in the process of forming a new parks master plan to identify needs and wishes for all area parks, including Festival Park.

Council has two meetings scheduled next week, a regular council meeting on Monday and a special workshop meeting on Wednesday.