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No consensus from council on Seven Islands; project manager to be hired for Bimini Basin

By Staff | Aug 23, 2016

Cape Coral City Council members could not come to an agreement Monday night in selecting a concept for the Seven Islands project that has taken a year to assemble.

Councilmembers Rana Erbrick and Richard Leon are willing to “go big or go home.” Others preferred the smaller scale development options among the six concepts presented.

City Manager John Szerlag was hoping the discussion would settle on one or two of the concepts drawn up by CPH consultant Javier Omana after many months of workshop sessions with public input. Omana asked council to set the standards for height and other key elements.

The discussion turned to establishing minimum and maximum ranges instead. Still, council could not agree as their preferences ranged from the smallest and lowest height and density concept to the highest height and density concept. That led to Erbrick suggesting putting all six concepts out in the public to see what developers might bring forward.

“It is my experience that developers are motivated by profits,” said Szerlag. “If you give them a minimum and a maximum they will go with the maximum. They want to know how high can I go.”

Omana added, “The key is to protect the city. Set the limits and minimum standards. Pick two concepts and move forward with the RFP so a developer knows the rules of engagement and see what they come up with.”

Each council member picked two concepts they were comfortable with so that Szerlag can then work with staff to find the overall consensus and bring it back to council for approval in the coming weeks.

That discussion led into one on the Bimini Basin project where council approved staff’s request to hire a project manager.

As Councilmember Marilyn Stout succinctly summed up the majority view, “If we don’t do this, the Bimini won’t happen.”

It’s the next step to get the project up an running as the manager will take the project to the next level. According to the Request For Proposal that council approved 7-1 Monday night, that person will identify the city’s resources to support future development; coordinate financing mechanisms and sources; schedule construction projects and infrastructure; assess the adequacy of city infrastructure to serve future needs; coordinate with Public Works and utilities to design and develop plans; secure development partners for design concepts and opportunities for land assemblage.

“I am so excited to have this project and the one at Seven Islands,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “This is so good for Cape Coral. We are finally at the RFP stage as this is where the rubber meets the road.”

Erbrick was the only council member to vote against hiring a project manager.

“The big one is the price tag on infrastructure,” Erbrick said. “I’m not willing to go forward until I hear an estimate of what that cost will be for the city. We’ve never gotten an estimate on that.”

Mayor Marni Retzer said that answers to those and other concerns will be dealt with by the project manager.

The project manager could be on board by the end of the year, Szerlag added.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday at City Hall.

A joint meeting with the Budget Review Committee scheduled for Aug. 31 has been canceled.