Cape Coral voters support GO Bond parks referendum
By CHUCK BALLARO
Cape Coral’s $60 million parks GO Bond referendum is a go.
Cape Coral voters on Tuesday voted to approve the city’s financing of a parks plan to be paid for with $60 million in general obligation bonds.
The vote was 53.58 percent in favor to 46.42 percent against.
Mayor Joe Coviello said it is a huge victory. With public safety and infrastructure being the top priority, the fact quality of life is also of importance to residents pleased him.
“This gives us the opportunity to accelerate those programs, that wouldn’t have happened if the bonds didn’t pass,” Coviello said. “As the city grows and we do things in a smart manner, you have to grow infrastructure, public safety, and your parks program. This will help us keep up with the growth.”
Councilmember John Carioscia was ecstatic that the city got a mandate to implement the parks plan, which calls for seven new neighborhood parks, three new community parks, a new environmental park and improvements to 20 existing parks.
“We have a professional parks planner coming in, we’re hoping to get an amphitheater and beef up the parks,” Carioscia said. “There are no excuses now. We’re going to move forward and get it done.”
The City Council approved the parks master plan in December 2016. The plan looks to make up what city officials say is a deficit in neighborhood, community and regional parks.
That plan would be paid for through the issuance of the bonds, the debt of which will be paid off over 15 years with a bump in ad valorem taxes. The tax will be .36 mills to start, with possible declines to .17 mills over the life of the bond if property values continue to increase.
Had the referendum failed, the city would have had to pay as they went, which would have taken much longer, officials said.
The old golf course property and the possible construction of an Oasis Sports Park are not included as the master plan which was completed before those ideas were brought forward.
With voter approval in hand, a planning stage will come next, where residents will have input into what they want to see in specific parks. Carioscia, who has an amphitheater on his wish list, said input could include where to construct that amenity.
“We can put it in Festival Park or Academic Park or at the old golf course. We have to lay this out before we spend a dollar,” Carioscia said. “We want to have outdoor plays and a symphony orchestra on Sunday.”
Coviello said there are plenty of parks that need improvement now, and that’s where some of the money will go in the short term.
“We have 19 parks that need improvement. We will tackle some of that first. Then, from there, do the buildout of the neighborhood and community parks,” Coviello said. “Now that we have the funding, we can lay out a more definitive plan. We have a plan, now it’s about the timeline.”