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Need for commercial stressed for Zemel

By Staff | Jan 28, 2020

The need for additional commercial development came up again Monday as Cape Coral City Council heard a presentation regarding the Hudson Creek project and a related comprehensive plan amendment.

The consensus reached at the Council workshop was, with so much residential going there, the project would need to have a commercial element as well.

That would mean perhaps altering the schedule for the utilities expansion project to make installation or water and sewer along Burnt Store Road a priority.

Hudson Creek, part of the Zemel properties, is a large-scale development of 1,238.5 acres that would allow for 2,515 single-family homes and up to 1,330 multi-family units, equaling around 9,700 residents.

Of that property, 613.5 acres will be designated as open space, as it is wetlands. No additional commercial, office or mixed use is proposed, as 255 acres adjacent to Zemel to the west has a mixed-use designation.

That land is along Burnt Store Road, where Council is looking at more than Hudson Creek.

Water and sewer has yet to be installed along Burnt Store Road, which officials say is necessary to draw any type of business to that corridor. The city extension of sewer lines to Hudson Creek is about 10 years into the future unless the developer funds it, since the property is several miles away from the nearest utilities.

This led to the conclusion by staff that a “Land Use Amendment could only be implemented by zoning changes or development applications when utility plans are solidified.”

Councilmember John Gunter said he was concerned with the 255-acre parcel which he said, “screams out commercial.”

“If we are to have any type of land use change, we have to look at it in its entirety and not just a small segment,” Gunter said. “I would feel more comfortable incorporating the 255 acres and make sure that’s commercial. It’s the best use.”

“When you look at the residential development, certainly you would need amenities to go along with it, whether it be commercial, to support the community,” Mayor Joe Coviello added. “It’s essential that be included in this plan.”

That would mean extending utilities, something that corridor doesn’t have. No sewer and water, no commercial.

“For Burnt Store Road to not have utilities is ludicrous. I keep being told who’s going to pay for it. Well, nobody is ever going to pay for it and we don’t get someone up there who can,” Councilmember Rick Williams said. “It’s a huge area for development and I think it’s time we drive a stake and make a decision.”

“We need to talk about UEP as a separate issue and continue on with this one,” said Councilmember Lois Welsh. “Maybe the developer has deep pockets and would like to fund the expansion and be reimbursed later as more commercial comes.”

The city administration got a sense of direction from council and said they would see what they could do to expedite that infrastructure.

The Zemel property was annexed by Cape Coral in 2006. That incorporation of the property was upheld in court in 2008 after a Lee County challenge.

In other business the city also heard a presentation on the Utilities Department annual report from Utilities Director Jeff Pearson, which found that “the potable water, wastewater, and irrigation quality water systems have been maintained in good condition and are operated in an efficient manner at a reasonable cost” and that the city “can meet operations and maintenance obligations through its established rates, and produce the required net revenues, expansion fees and special assessment proceeds.”