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Improvements to Matlacha site proposed

By Staff | Jan 23, 2020

When the Cape Coral City Council last month rejected a second annexation attempt of six acres the municipality owns in Matlacha, the big question on everyone’s mind was “What’s next?”

On Monday, that answer may begin to unfold as city staff presents some site improvement options at the Council workshop set to begin at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Staff has prepared plans that call for, at minimum, improvements to the failing seawall and boat ramp area.

Still on the table, though, are other possibilities discussed in the wake of the Dec. 9 decision to back down on the annexation bid those on Matlacha had challenged.

Other options expressed have included a sale of the waterfront parcel along Pine Island Road to developers, continuation of the city’s plans to put a park there anyway, or to simply to leave the site bought as part of a massive multi-parcel foreclosure sale land buy at the depth of the real estate implosion as is.

Mayor Joe Coviello said he expects some sort of direction on Monday, but the options are relatively few, since annexation is not likely one of them.

“Since the city owns the property, we’re going to see what we do next. We’re going to see what can be done and what direction to go in,” Coviello said. “There are a couple of option; it’s to simply sell the property and be done with it or to perhaps develop it under the rules of the county and do the boat ramp and restaurant. Or maybe Matlacha wants to buy it.”

Councilmember Rick Williams said he isn’t sure where this is headed, but he is in support of selling.

“In December we decided not to contest the lawsuit any longer to annex. I hope the plan is to sell the property,” Williams said. “If we do, it’s up to the new buyer to do whatever they want. It’s out of our control if we sell.”

Cape Coral purchased the six-acre property in 2012 as part of a $13 million, 656 acre package — all but the Matlacha parcel within the Cape Coral city limits. Much of that property was bought for pennies on the dollar in today’s terms, meaning the then-controversial purchase turned into a steal for the city.

However, a judge overturned the annexation plan in September because the city had failed to follow the proper hearing procedure, leading then to the council’s decision to discontinue its quest by a 5-2 vote.

Well before that, the city entered into grants with the county and state organizations to improve the property.

In May 2018, the city also developed a pair of concepts for what the property would look like, one would cost $3.3 million, the other more modest plan would cost $1.6 million, and authorized an RFP for a potential Public/Private Partnership (P3).

Coviello said he wants to explore all options.

“There is some information that needs to be brought forward like what use the property will allow. I know we don’t want to continue to try because we voted not to,” Coviello said.

The Matlacha Civic Association will likely be very interested in what Council has to say. Despite the contentious nature of their dealings with the city, president Carl Deigert said they are willing to listen, but the city needs to act in good faith.

“Our goal has been to prevent the westward march of the annexation. Their plan was to create a parklike setting with a two-lane boat ramp and a path to an island,” Deigert said. “We would be amenable to the plan if they sell us the easement to break the continuity between the property and Micieli’s.”

Deigert added he isn’t confident that much more than what the city is now proposing will be allowed under county rules.