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County green lights Cape site for 2020 consideration

By Staff | Feb 18, 2020

One of the last wetlands sites in the city of Cape Coral advanced to the next step of the Conservation 20/20 purchase process Tuesday.

The Lee County Commission unanimously green lighted the 194-acre property that abuts Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve along the Caloosahatchee.

Two other parcels also were given a nod by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, which gave a fourth parcel a thumbs down.

The next step in the acquisition process is securing appraisals of each site still under consideration.

Several supporters of Conservation 20/20 acquisition of the Cape site spoke to the commission.

Among them was Mayor Joe Coviello, who extolled the virtues of the property, telling the commission it is among the last properties in the city that can be considered for Conservation 20/20 protection. The acreage and its riverfront serves as habitat for manatees, gopher tortoises, birds and other plant and animal life, he added.

Coviello said the city is committed to mitigating the damage that was done there when its machinery destroyed some mangroves on the shoreline, as the state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring.

“Cape Coral does not have a lot of parcels that qualify for the 20/20 program. We have a lot of projects that the city and the county are partnering on and I want to thank you for that,” Coviello said. “It’s a mitigation area for lots of our protected species when we build in other parts of the city.”

The BOCC had little problem passing the measure, which made supporters very happy.

“We’re pretty stoked. We had the mayor here, which was fantastic, and the commissioners’ vote will move it through the process,” said Joe Cruz, an advocate. “Hopefully in a short period of time we’ll know if we can purchase this.”

“We’ve worked hard on this project, and we’re very excited. We just have to go through it and it has to be acquired,” said Terry Brennen

On Jan. 9, with five of eight Cape Coral City Council members in attendance, the Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee voted in favor of the Cape site’s inclusion on a recommended purchase list, setting up Tuesday’s commission meeting.

From here, the county will have the land appraised and do an environmental study. The county and the landowners, Ripple Lake LLC, then will negotiate a sale price.

If an agreement is made, the deal goes back to CLASAC and the BOCC a second time for final approval, with public comment welcome at that time.

The negotiation part could be the biggest hurdle.

The asking price for the land is around $6,875,000.

The city also has to repair damage done to the shoreline.

Coviello said there is a plan, and reiterated the city is committed to restoring the site.

“When you look at Cape Coral, there are so many areas where you can build homes in. We need to look for tracts like this that we can preserve,” Coviello said. “We have a plan in place to restore the shoreline. It’s restorable and we want to make it better and we are committed to restoring the property.”