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Cape brakes on citywide rezoning process

By Staff | Feb 26, 2019

Faced with public protest and confusion, the city of Cape Coral will postpone its citywide rezoning initiative while more information is provided and additional input is sought.

Cape Coral City Council decided Monday that rather than hold its second public hearing on zoning changes most people don’t understand, the city will do a reset so people can ask questions and better understand the changes that could affect 9,800 total acres of various sized parcels throughout the city.

Instead of early March, the city will seek to hold these public hearings later in the spring.

Monday’s workshop meeting was held to discuss the methodologies and techniques used by the city’s Planning Department to determine its recommended zoning changes and overall plan.

Many members of the Northwest Neighborhood Association came to express their objections to the changes, which they say could result in unwanted commercial entities coming to Old Burnt Store Road.

John Jacobs, president of the NWNA, expressed his displeasure, fearing these changes would cause property values to plummet.

Wyatt Daltry and city staff spent the next hour talking about the changes they propose to accommodate population growth and city needs.

Robert Pederson, city planner, said the idea is for zoning and land use to be fast, fair and predictable.

Essentially, high-density multi-family areas would be designated in high-density areas such as Seven Islands, Pine Island Road, the South Cape and Bimini Basin.

The presentations, though, failed to provide a comfort level in either those attending the workshop or among the elected board itself.

After the presentations, Councilmember Rick Williams asked those in the crowd to raise their hands if they understood the staff explanations. Nobody raised their hands – and neither did Williams.

“I’m displeased that someone can just plop a 7-Eleven in a residential neighborhood,” Williams said. “We need to slow down and eliminate these hiccups.”

Principal Planner Chad Boyko then gave a presentation outlining the 25 main areas where the main changes would take place.

That, too, failed to provide a comfort level.

Councilmember David Stokes expressed unhappiness that there were no street names on the maps from Daltry’s presentation. Councilmember John Gunter said the need for more businesses was not adequately addressed.

City Manager John Szerlag said he wanted to get going on the zoning in the South Cape, Bimini Basin and Seven Islands, but he also wanted Council and residents to be comfortable.

“We could take as long as it takes to give you a sense of comfort through transparency and public input,” Szerlag said.

City Attorney Dolores Menendez cautioned that they didn’t want to start over after three years of effort – especially if the city were to hold 10 hearings and then hear 10 different things.

Council decided to slow things down and allow people more time to understand what everything means.

Jacobs said he, for one, was pleased.

“I’m greatly encouraged. They listened to the community and are slowing this thing down to where it’s most logical,” Jacobs said. “This will determine the future of how the city will be built out.”

The Four Corners neighborhood is not included in the zoning, as everything will be done there in separate ordinances.