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Council approves land use change for former church property on Del Prado

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

City Council’s initial reaction was to deny a request to change the land use designation on a former church property on Del Prado Boulevard, but after hearing more substantial explanations, council reversed its position and unanimously approved the request.

The property is a 7.65-acre site at 2935 Del Prado that formerly served as Christ Lutheran Church since the 1960s. Fifth Third Bank foreclosed on the property in 2015 and says it has been unable to sell it with its current public facilities designation. The bank requested a land use change to commer-cial/professional designation to provide some flexibility for a future sale.

According to its sales flier on LoopNet, a commercial real estate listing service, the property, a “development opportunity” and listed at $3.9 million, “price reduced.”

Residents at the nearby Del Prado Park Townhouse complex, across Cornwallis Parkway from the site, raised their concerns about safety, additional traffic and road noise, and the loss of green space if a commercial development is allowed.

Councilmember Richard Leon made the motion to deny the request, saying, “This is a perfect opportunity to see something different there from a convenience store or dollar store.”

Councilmember Rick Williams agreed with the city’s need for more commercial property, but not the low-paying jobs that would come with development.

“We need to look for the higher-paying opportunities we would get by putting some kind of an office park there,” Williams said.

Community Development Director Vince Cautero said he detected some disconnect in what was being expressed by Council.

“We are giving you our best professional opinion here,” Cautero said. “You don’t seem happy with the unknown. You can’t have a land use designation with restrictions. This is simply a land use change. Zoning will come later. You are talking about the very commercial/professional opportunities that is a compatible use in this case.”

Council was told that plenty of codes are left on the books to restrict a future proposed development for the protection of the surrounding neighborhood.

“I understand the concerns of the residents,” said Councilmember Marilyn Stout. “It’s been two years and no sale. How long can we hold the bank hostage? I’m surprised by the motion to deny and if it fails I will make the motion to approve it.”

“I would love to see the property remain a church, but I don’t think it ever will be,” Councilmember Jim Burch said. “It’s Del Prado. There is commercial all over it. We can make sure the use is appropriate for the property through the PDP process that’s designed as a protector of the residents.”

Staff added it is exceedingly rare for a parcel to go away from public use because churches and schools and government agencies don’t generally ask for a change.

The vote to deny the land use request failed 6-2 with Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmembers Rana Erbrick, John Carioscia, Stout, Williams and Burch all voting against the motion.

Stout followed through with a motion to approve and a unanimous vote followed.

The action does not change the current zoning, which remains places of worship, its most recent use. There is a seven-building complex on the site, including the closed church and its school facilities.

The sales flier lists the site location at the lighted intersection of Del Prado Boulevard and Cornwallis Parkway with additional ingress and egress at Southeast 29th Terrace, among the property highlights

The flier also addresses current zoning, … “permits, among other things, places of worship, assisted living facility, child care facility, schools and social services, and the potential for a zoning change.

“There is a high probability that this property may be rezoned to C1 or P1 (City of Cape Coral) which would allow numerous redevelopment uses,” the flier states, adding potential buyers “should consult with the City to verify that their proposed use would meet the above parameters …”

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Aug. 21, at City Hall.