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Council says no to annexation

By Staff | Dec 10, 2019

The theme of Monday’s City Council meeting regarding the annexation of just over 5 acres of property in Matlacha by the city was about being a good neighbor.

After the City Council voted 5-2 to reject the annexation, it looks as though the city won’t be a good neighbor, or perhaps even a neighbor, period.

This means the city will either have to work under the county’s rules regarding how to develop the property or sell the land and let the residents of Matlacha deal with a private developer, who could turn it into whatever he/she sees fit.

After the annexation was quashed in September by a judge, City Council met again in front of a full house to consider its next steps on the D & D Bait and Tackle property on Pine Island Road.

The city bought the property on Pine Island Road, N,W., in April 2012 as part of a large 652-acre, $13-million land deal, along with Seven Islands.

Staff gave presentations, while David Depew, who conducted a study on the annexation, argued that the property is contiguous to the city boundary, 60 percent of which abuts the city, and follows the city comprehensive plan for which the city is the sole owner, with county zoning in place for at least 45 years for residential and mixed use.

Beverly Grady, representing the Pine Island Matlacha Fire District in opposition, said there would be greater response time for Cape Coral firefighters serving there, and that firefighters would have to leave the city briefly on Pine Island Road before reentering.

During public comment, nearly everyone stated their opposition to the annexation, with the common theme from them regarding “being a good neighbor.”

“We want Cape Coral to be a good neighbor. The judge already quashed your efforts and you want to take further action. If you do so, you underestimate the will of Matlacha. We will oppose you,” Carl Deigert, president of the Matlacha Civic Association, said. “Move to stop the economic exploitation and use good stewardship of tax dollars and stop this.”

David Root, owner of D & D, sounded a different alarm, saying that the alternative of annexation could be development by a private entity, which could spell the end of his business.

“What is the guarantee if the city sells? Who will determine the fate of the community and others who have made D&D their home for 20 years,” Root said. “If this property gets a facelift, that might be the best thing.”

City Council emphasized they were not going to turn the property into a high-rise resort. The plan was to add a P3 restaurant, more boat ramps and parking, spruce the place up and place D&D elsewhere on the property.

Council members, especially Mayor Joe Coviello, also expressed their dismay over the misinformation being spread by some about what would go there. He and Marilyn Stout voted in support of the annexation.

“Good neighbors don’t spread misinformation about building condos rather than build a restaurant and boat ramps,” Coviello said. “If that’s the case, then sell it. What will the next person do? Add condos?”

John Carioscia’s response was a terse one. He said the city should sell and let the Matlacha residents deal with the new owner, who may have the political savvy to put anything he wants there.

“I say sell it and you can go to court with the new owner and watch D&D disappear. If someone else buys it, they will put whatever they can there,” Carioscia warned. “We can take that money and put it into a parks plan. You’ll be in court a long time and it won’t bother me one bit.”

Despite the victory, Deigert was not in a celebratory mood.

“When they sit there and tell us we were not good neighbors, and that we didn’t want to negotiate, that’s a boldfaced lie,” Deigert said. “Our goal was to keep Cape Coral out of Matlacha, we achieved that, and that’s what our goal was.”

“We were ready to work with them, the fire district was ready, but they wanted us to agree to allow them to rezone the property PUD, which would allow them to do anything,” said islander Michael Hannon. “They made these promises of boat ramps and restaurants and D&D that were worth nothing. It will take a lot for them to come back to the table with us.”