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Cape eyes eminent domain for purchase of park land

By Staff | Jul 18, 2019

The city of Cape Coral has been gathering land for its planned Festival Park for years. Now, officials are ready to make the final push to get the rest.

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday will vote on 61 resolutions to acquire remaining targeted properties through eminent domain, a process that allows government agencies to buy properties deemed needed for a public purpose.

The city must pass individual “resolutions of necessity,” according to state statutes, which is the formal decision by government to use eminent domain to acquire the property.

City staff was trying to determine Thursday if each resolution had to be passed individually of if they can be passed as an entire group, like consent agenda items.

Eminent domain gives the municipality the right to “take” private property for public use because it has dominion over lands within its jurisdiction.

The governing agency doing the “taking” must pay the unwilling-to-sell property owner.

The city will first make an offer to the owners of the property for just compensation if the resolutions pass, said Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello.

“We’ve been acquiring property there for years. We’re going to give them the opportunity to relinquish the property to the city,” Coviello said. “Eminent domain will only come into play if owners aren’t willing to do that.”

Councilmember John Gunter said he is not a big fan of eminent domain except as an absolute final option. After all these years, it may have come to that.

“Typically, I am not in favor of it, but this project has been publicized for many years and people know of the city’s intent,” Gunter said. “Since the Go Bonds passed, the goal is to fast track it. The city needs to work with the city owners as much as possible for an agreement. To me, eminent domain is a last resort.”

Councilmember John Carioscia said the city will either have a festival park or not.

“The way to do this is to get the land. We’ve been doing this for 15 years and this is the last resort. You don’t want to go into any community and use it as a first line of process,” Carioscia. “Hopefully we can give them what they want at a fair price and we can move on.”

Located between Kismet and Wilmington parkways, Festival Park will feature a large amphitheater, soccer fields, a recreation center, walking trails and more than 5,000 parking spaces so it can hold larger events like concerts.

The city hopes to have the park completed in 2023.

It will cost $5.8 million and be funded using a portion of the $60 million Parks Master Plan GO bonds passed by voters in a referendum last year.