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Committee consideration of Cape parcel for 20/20 purchase expected Jan. 9

By Staff | Dec 19, 2019

Consideration of a Cape Coral parcel for Conservation 20/20 land purchase is now expected to come before a county advisory committee in January.

Dozens of advocates for the site just north of Four Mile Cove in southeast Cape Coral had packed the Community Development/Public Works Center in Fort Myers last week for the Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee hearing but a lack of quorum pushed consideration into the new year.

The CLASAC meeting got bumped to Jan. 9, much to the chagrin of land conservation advocates who are pushing hard for the land to be considered by Lee County for Conservation 20/20 status.

But for that to happen, the 193.87 acres needed to score well on a committee assessment evaluation. It scored 47 out of 100 possible points.

The property got dinged for its habitat for plants and animals, a lack of wide-ranging species, water resources and a lack of rare and unique uplands, all of which got zero points.

That became a major point of contention.

Joanna Semmer, of Ostego Bay Environmental, an environmental consulting firm, said in a letter that the review seemed “incorrect and incomplete and an informed decision cannot be made based on this review.”

Many at last week’s meeting talked about the criteria in their scoring, spoke up and said the score was way too low.

“You need a better scoring system because of inconsideration, sea rise, climate change and the gutting of the Endangered Species Act,” said Cape resident and environmental activist Carl Veaux.

The committee decided to table its scoring decision. The public comment stopped once the CLASAC hearing failed to reach a quorum.

Jason Pim, an advocate, said city residents have paid more than $100 million into the Conservation 20/20 program but have only seen about $6 million come back, with this property being one of the few remaining that can be considered for the program.

Pim said he was disappointed there was no meeting, having worked for this day for six months.

“We thought we would have an opportunity to give input and get one step closer. It wasn’t in the cards,” Pim said. “The 20/20 scoring was lower than we anticipated. That can be rectified, but the real issue here is between the city and the Florida DEP and there needs to be more communication with the county to allay fears of some of the damage done.”

Pim said it is the last acreage hosting native land and wildlife in the city and, if they can’t conserve this property, there isn’t much else.

Cheryl Anderson said she was also disappointed for everyone who came to speak and couldn’t, but believes there was some hope.

“Sometimes a low score is a good thing because it give us a chance to come back to appeal and straighten out the issues for the next meeting,” Anderson said.

Bryan Delahunt said he was glad the owner group was willing to offer the land for conservation. His concern was the money the city has put in for the taxpayer approved and funded program with next to nothing to show for it.

“It’s contiguous against another preserve so it’s only making that bigger and it improves the area around Rosen Park. Instead of houses, there will be manatees,” Delahunt said.

CLASAC will only make a recommendation to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to either move forward or not move forward.

The BOCC will then make a decision in a future meeting whether to instruct staff to begin negotiations on the property.