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Circuit court reverses decision on annexation standing

By Staff | May 23, 2019

A circuit court of appeals has reversed the decision by a previous court regarding the standing of petitioners challenging the annexation of property in Matlacha along the Cape Coral border.

A petition to quash a portion of a circuit court’s findings that the Cape Coral petitioners did not have standing to challenge the city’s annexation ordinance was granted Wednesday.

Judge Keith Kyle concluded in his seven-page legal opinion that “with respect to the Cape Coral petitioners, the circuit court departed from the essential requirements of law in determining they did not have standing to challenge an annexation ordinance passed by the City of Cape Coral.”

“We are pleased that we can now get a decision on the merits of the annexation. We will be back in front of Judge Kyle later this year for that decision,” said Michael Hannon, a representative for the petitioners.

In 2012, the city purchased six parcels of land on the eastern edge of Matlacha in unincorporated Lee County.

In 2016, the Cape Coral City Council proposed Ordinance 57-16 to annex the property into the city, using the “voluntary annexation” procedure pursuant to section 171.044, Florida Statutes (2017), because it owned the parcels.

The annexation was met with resistance from some residents of Cape Coral and Matlacha, who objected to the way the city was proposing the annexation. When the ordinance was passed, a lawsuit followed.

The trial court dismissed the petition after concluding the Cape Coral residents had not alleged they had suffered a present material injury.

The petitioners argued that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law, the result of which deprived them of their right to seek review of the annexation.

Cape petitioners asserted that because they are taxpayers and have suffered a “special injury,” they had standing to challenge the annexation.

Kyle agreed they were an affected party.

“This decision says the Cape Coral petitioners are clearly what the statute calls an affected party,” Hannon said. “The decision said that is all you need to show.”

The City Attorney’s Office said in an e-mail that since this is ongoing litigation, the city had no comment.