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Residents attending NWNA rally question inclusion of clubs at Tropicana Park

By Staff | Jan 21, 2020

A rally organized by the Northwest Neighborhood Association to present information on plans — and possible plans — for the new Tropicana Park drew a crowd Saturday.

Close to 200 people turned out at West Cape Estates, next to the park to be developed as part of the city of Cape Coral’s $60 million Parks Master Plan, to hear about what’s planned for the now-vacant site, as well as about a proposal to include a lease arrangement with a kayak and canoe club for a portion of the park.

NWNA president John Bashaw got a receptive audience, which did not include any city council members or members of the clubs in attendance.

The city is weighing a proposal that would put the non-profit rowing and canoeing clubs at the park at Tropicana, along with storage facilities for the boats, which could include 60-foot-long eight-person boats with coxswain, those in attendance were told.

An original concept for the club, which shows a two-story building with lots of storage, was circulated, as was an e-mail from Saundra Weston, Caloosa Coast Rowing Club board member, to Cape Coral City Councilmember Jennifer Nelson.

In it, Weston said Tropicana Park was ideal, as allows access to the spreader canal “perfect for paddling and rowing.”

Weston said she had a design for a 1.6-acre parcel, which was presented to the city last spring with staff saying then that would be too large.

No decision, including whether to lease a portion of the park site, has been made by the city.

Bashaw said he has nothing against the two clubs, that they are an asset to the city. He agrees there needs to be a place for them to be located near the water. He disagrees that Tropicana Park is the proper place.

Bashaw said it was important to remove all the “false information about the park” and get people to the same level of information.

“This issue is not only important to the residents but also to the canoe and kayak club. We have not been communicated with about the actual plans for the park,” Bashaw said. “There was no disclosure on what the buildings would look like.”

Bashaw said the points of contention include a lack of public input on the park plans, safety on the water for the canoes and the powerboats, access to amenities such as private storage for private clubs, and access to the water.

Bashaw also maintained that state statutes prohibit cities from using their taxing authority to benefit an organization, business or person, which, in his opinion, could be the case with the voter-approved general obligation bonds issued to pay for the parks plan.

He also said there are many upscale homes nearby, whose residents may face adverse quality of life issues; zoning issues, which is single-family residential and MX-7; and a a Seven Islands code, which may not allow for certain things like fenced-in storage.

“If there is a plan to change the zoning for this, it has to get started. We have residents paying a lot in property taxes, and they’re going to look out the window and see fenced storage areas or even a large metal building,” Bashaw said. “All we’re asking is for them to be taken seriously and to pay us the due respect and answer these questions.”

Residents had the opportunity to make comments with most voicing the opinion that the city needs to consider a different location should it choose to lease land to the clubs.

Mona Farquharson was among those who spoke.

She was concerned the leases would be for up to 20 years for a token pittance, and asked whether a water traffic study had been conducted.

“In the water there’s a blind S curve. There are a lot of people down there and it will become a bottleneck and, by adding more boats, it will be worse and those studies haven’t been done,” Farquarson said. “To consider this is not appropriate.”