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Citizen-sought ‘best practices’ request among Cape Council items

By Staff | Jun 8, 2017

A Cape family that staved off an eminent domain taking will ask the Cape Coral City Council and the city’s real estate division on Monday what the rules are and how they can be changed to make things easier for those who own property in the city.

Ginny and Jeff Bunch have petitioned the city to establish best practices for its real estate division.

Those matters include appraisals, vacating, eminent domain, trades and donations of property and land purchase.

“We believe that the Real Estate division is operating with virtually zero ‘checks and balances’ at this time and has systematically violated landowners rights in its efforts to acquire land on the city’s behalf,” the petition states.

The battle began in 2014, when the city notified the Bunch family it wanted property it owns to build utility storage tanks. The city offered $330,000. The family contended the property was worth much more, saying businesses, such as Walmart, are expected to be built nearby.

The city initiated an attempt to take the land by eminent domain last year, but the Bunch family fought back.

Last month, City Council voted to acquire an alternate site, next door to the Bunch property off Pine Island Road.

Councilmember Jim Burch said it’s always good to review the rules, especially when it comes to eminent domain.

“There’s a use for it, but it needs to be used sparingly and we need to use all the due diligence we have,” Burch said. “I think we went beyond what we needed to do and probably needed better communication.”

There will also be discussion on what to do regarding the possible upcoming resignation of District 5 council member Rana Erbrick, who is an announced candidate for mayor.

The state of Florida sent the City Clerk’s Office an advisory opinion on how the issue should be resolved.

Erbrick, whose current Council term does not expire until November 2019, in an attempt to comply with the state’s “Resign to Run” law, would need to submit an irrevocable letter of resignation on or before June 23, with the resignation effective Nov. 20, the date she would take over as mayor, if elected.

According to the statute, the vacancy would be filled by election for the remainder of the term in a matter provided by the city charter.

Burch said charter needs to do a better job to clarify how exactly to tackle the situation, and that the people should decide who takes that seat, not members of Council, which is why he would like to see Erbrick resign now.

“If you’re running for mayor, resign immediately so the people can quality and run for that seat,” Burch said. “The charter is as clear as mud. It doesn’t spell out what should happen.”

In other business, city council will hear a request regarding the Entrada subdivision for three development tracts, to be rezoned from Multi-family residential to Pedestrian Commercial, with a special exception to construct and operate a service station.

There will also be a request to replat and rename 10.21 acres of the Skyline North subdivision on Pine Island Road into five commercial lots, with a setback deviation on an existing building.

The meeting, the last regularly scheduled one until July 24 (there will be a special meeting Wednesday regarding the North 2 utility expansion project), starts at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.