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Judge orders Cape Coral annexation response

By Staff | Jul 27, 2017

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Keith Kyle has ordered Cape Coral to respond to the Matlacha Civic Association’s petition challenging Cape Coral’s annexation of property on Matlacha.

The order was issued last Friday and Cape Coral has 30 days to respond.

Seven months ago the Cape Coral City Council, despite protests from several Pine Island / Matlacha residents, voted to annex 5.6 acres on Matlacha Island to the city of Cape Coral. The property lies on the south side of Pine Island Road next to D&D Bait and Tackle.

Cape Coral had purchased the Matlacha property in 2012 as part of a $13 million land acquisition of 656 acres with 650 acres in Cape Coral.

In the days following the City Council meeting, Pine Island residents organized a series of meetings and several protest rallies in an attempt to reverse the council’s decision. The Matlacha Civic Association responded with a lawsuit.

The Petitioners claim that the annexation of these properties outside of Cape Coral violates Florida law on the requirements for annexation.

“Judge Kyle has now ordered that Cape Coral and the Matlacha Petitioners must file their final legal arguments on the legality of the annexation of the Matlacha properties,” Mike Hannon said. “The Matlacha Petitioners expect that Judge Kyle might be in a position to make a final decision on annexation this year.”

Hannon, who is an attorney but not a member of the Florida Bar, has been assisting MCA attorneys Matthew Uhle and Stephen Brannock in the lawsuit.

“If Judge Kyle rules in favor of the Matlacha parties, the six lots will return to unincorporated Lee County, and any development of those lots must comply with Lee County ordinances and the Pine Island Plan,” Hannon said.

“The second part of the lawsuit challenges Cape Coral’s overall practice of purchasing real estate, both outside Cape Coral and in Cape Coral, to hold for future development and speculation,” Hannon said. “This part of the lawsuit alleges that purchasing and holding these lots for future sale is a violation of the Florida Constitution.”

The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is the city’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.

In addition to the annexation lawsuit the Greater Pine Island Civic Association is exploring the possibility of incorporating Pine Island and Matlacha.

At a GPICA meeting islanders were given the results of a feasibility study in the form of a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The purpose of a SWOT report is to identify current conditions to be considered for (or against) incorporation.

In June GPICA sent out a letter and a prepaid postcard to Pine Island / Matlacha voters asking residents whether ‘GPICA should continue to investigate incorporation’ or, ‘GPICA should not continue to investigate incorporation’.

Postcards were to be returned by July 21.

Results will be announced at the first GPICA meeting of the 2017-2018 season.