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Cape Council rejects less restrictive eagle nest ordinance

By Staff | Jun 5, 2018

Cape Coral will keep its more restrictive eagle nest setback regulations.

Cape Coral City Council on Monday voted down an ordinance that would have reduced the Eagle Nest Management Zone in effect in the Cape, in effect rejecting a bid to bring cit regs in line with those in effect at the state and federal level.

After continuing the matter from last month so more data could be produced, all but one council member, Marilyn Stout, voted against the measure that would have reduced the protective zone from 1,100 feet to 660 feet, which is in line with state and federal guidelines.

Cheryl Anderson, of the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, was thrilled by the decision.

“We’re very excited the city decided to maintain the eagle ordinance. We didn’t want the eagles to be run out of town,” Anderson said. “We have to give them every chance we can, which is what the (original) ordinance is designed to do.”

The city brought an ecologist, Mike Myers, in to speak in favor of the ordinance. He said that anything beyond 660 feet is no longer warranted as a result of how the bald eagle has come back strong from the brink of extinction.

“The 1,100-foot zone is 87 acres, which is 177 percent bigger than if it was 660 feet. This requirement brings more costs and delays even to those doing improvements to their homes,” Myers said.

Nearly all the individuals speaking at public comment, except Bill Johnson Jr, president of the CCCIA, spoke in favor of keeping the zone intact.

But while Johnson and Councilmember Rick Williams said most of the debate was based on emotion and not fact, council wasn’t sure the city made a strong enough argument for it, as they didn’t have much empirical data.

Stout said she didn’t like that homeowners would possibly have to pay mitigation fees because they live near an eagle nest.

“Me and my husband are both proud of America and of the bald eagle, but if I thought this would hurt the eagles, I would vote against it,” Stout said.

She ended up being the only one to support the proposed ordinance.

“I can count on one hand the number of bald eagles I’ve seen in flight. We have these eagles and it’s important to protect them,” Councilmember David Stokes said. “If I thought this would kill jobs, I would vote for it, but the city is booming, we have all these building permits and contractors work around it already.”

As the roll call vote came out, residents cheered as it became obvious their side had won.

As it turned out, that wasn’t the only vote the Council shut down.

An ordinance that would have provided regulations for parking commercial vehicles and trailers in certain areas of the city saw only two council members vote in favor.

It became apparent that the ordinance was not well written, and the elected board had trouble figuring out what exactly defined a trailer and what to do about commercial vehicles.

Mayor Joe Coviello presented a scenario where he brought his truck and trailer to a downtown restaurant for lunch. Would his car get towed?

Council members Jessica Cosden and Stokes voted for the measure, which will likely be brought back at a future date when the definitions are clearer.