Youth Council rejects golf course land use change
The newly created Cape Coral Youth Council weighed in with its first official recommendation to City Council Friday when it unanimously voted to reject a proposed Land Use change for the vacant Golf Club in Southeast Cape.
The vote was taken after eight of the 13 members appointed to the Youth Council heard presentations from both sides of the issue. Developer D.R. Horton, represented by entitlement manager J. Wayne Everett, presented the benefits of its single-family residential development plan first, followed by resident Carolyn Conant, also a Cape Coral Bike/Ped member.
The Youth Council’s 8-0 vote is more emphatic than at the 5-2 vote the Planning & Zoning Commission made June 7 to refuse the Land Use application. It is the Youth Council’s first decision with long term substance for the city. The recommendation to refuse the application will be presented before the regular City Council meeting. City Council is scheduled to hear similar presentations for a final vote at its Aug. 21.
Council Chambers at City Hall seats were decked out in the familiar green shirts of the Save Our Recreation group formed to lobby elected officials to keep the 175-acre property, vacant for the past 11 years, as a golf course, green space and/or park land.
Pros and cons of the area becoming a sea of rooftops or remain green space came from both sides. Each representative was then questioned by council members.
Council chair Maxwell Slafer, vice-chair Austin Wilson and member Carsyn Baxter were the most engaged in the questioning. Baxter, a Cape High student, is concerned that residents around the gated community get to feel isolated in their neighborhood and what that does to property values. Wilson asked if the Land Use were to be changed, would D.R. Horton’s plan change like a bait-and-switch scenario. Slafer’s position is that the owner bought the property knowing it was a golf course.
“This is a case of private interests vs. public interests,” said Slafer, a Cape Coral High student. “Our elected officials need to hear the voice of their constituents. This course is part of our history and very important to the city.”
Conant added, “This is a pre-platted community. We can’t afford to lose a large piece of property like this. We are a very young city and we should start paying attention to our cultural development and large parks. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. The southeast and southwest areas are our economic engines. The property is more valuable to the city as a park.”
Everett stated that the development, if it becomes a reality, would be done in three phases with the first one being the largest and taking the longest because of the infrastructure construction. The property is above the flood plain and does not need an invasion of dump trucks hauling in dirt.
With Wilson, a North Fort Myers High student, making the official motion to recommend denial of the application, members stated their positions.
“This is the last chance to keep this land open,” Slafer. “How will the city acquire the land, I don’t know. How will the city develop the park, I don’t know. We represent the youth of this city and we know we need to expand our park areas. It needs to be maintained as recreation. We need to be on the side of the public, not bending to private groups.”
The Youth Council meets again at 2:45 p.m. on July 28 in city hall.