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Cape Council approves Village Square extension

By Staff | Apr 17, 2018

A project touted as a “game changer” for the South Cape before the real estate bust shelved numerous plans large and small has been given another extension.

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday granted the Village Square development a 120-day extension to Sept. 1 so the city won’t have to require a new Planned Development Proposal from the developer.

The existing PDP was set to run out May 1, and Council was asked to render its decision in the 11th hour of the meeting during the city manager’s closing comments.

Many on the elected board, notably Councilmember Jessica Cosden, were not too happy about the lack of time they were given to review the request, especially since they had just argued moments earlier about transparency during a discussion on the city remaining with the Regional Planning Council.

“I’ll vote for this, but I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t bring this up at the last minute,” Cosden said before the 8-0 vote.

As this measure was more administrative than fiscal, it was palatable enough for Council to vote though Councilmember David Stokes suggested a better option would be to hold a special meeting on April 23 before the board’s regular workshop meeting.

Village Square, to be located near the intersection of Cape Coral Parkway and Southeast 7th Court, has been in the works for years. As originally tendered, it was to include a large parking garage, and retail, office and living space.

Three years ago a discussion regarding this project got heated as then-mayor Marni Sawicki and then council member Rana Erbrick expressed their frustrations at yet another extension at that time.

In other business:

n Council addressed issues with the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which was designed to help those with modest incomes finance projects around their home, such as energy-efficient air conditioners or renewable energy.

Four resolutions were presented that would approve interlocal agreements between the city and third-party administrators.

However, in the time between Sept. 25, 2017, when the previous council approved participation, and now, certain things have changed. Among them is the ability for PACE funds to be used to repair or replace seawalls, the reason the program received its original nod from the city last year.

Then, it was said PACE money could pay for seawalls damaged or destroyed after Hurricane Irma. Now, according to City Manager John Szerlag, the legal teams with PACE said it will not be possible.

“We wanted to move forward with this because of the seawalls,” Councilmember John Gunter said.

As with last go-around, some members of Council were happy to see the program, as it gives homeowners another option to help pay for needed repairs. There were concerns about the interest rates, however, as in some cases rates were well above what could be obtained via a mortgage.

Councilmember Rick Williams was also concerned as to whether the city and taxpayers would be left on the hook if a homeowner got a PACE loan and then defaulted.

“If people can qualify for a loan, they can go to a bank. If people don’t have the credit, chances are they won’t be able to pay. I won’t support this,” said Williams, who cast the lone dissenting vote.