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The Cape is not a good neighbor

June 21, 2017
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

We do not know yet what Cape Coral will try do with the properties it bought and annexed in Matlacha. But through Sunshine Law requests we do know some of how Cape Coral plans to become its dystopian "vision as the urban center of Southwest Florida" and how, through the Cape's plan to buy and annex property, it could impact our Matlacha/Pine Island/Cape Royal community. It is part of a plan Cape Coral devised 10 years ago.

In preparation for Cape Coral's annexation of the Matlacha properties around D & D Bait, on Nov.15, 2016, Wyatt Daltry of the Cape's planning staff submitted a report outlining their plan for the area. Under "Positive Aspects of Application," Mr. Daltry wrote, "Annexation will let the City establish development controls and standards over property it owns," "Annexation will expand City boundary to gain more waterfront property" and "Opportunity exists for a commercial or parkland use."

Later in his report Mr. Daltry spells it out: "The City of Cape Coral wishes to annex the property into the City limits so that it may exercise its land use and zoning authority for future development. The site has waterfront commercial opportunities that are relatively rare for a community with 400 miles of canals." Or maybe turn it into a park. Or maybe, like on neighboring Seven Islands, zone it for eight-story high-rises.

Two things are certain: Cape Coral covets our waterfront properties and we have no say.

Mr. Daltry had only one entry under "Negative Aspects of Application" - "Could cause concern among Matlacha Isles residents regarding development, traffic, potential future annexation." Pretty obvious concerns, especially since in 2009 Cape Coral let it be known it wanted to annex Matlacha Isles.

In his "Recommendation" to annex the Matlacha properties, Mr. Daltry wrote that, "Clearly the City has been proactive in efforts to secure land appropriate for non-residential development. Selective annexations of properties, particularly enclaves (my italics and looking at you Matlacha Isles and Cape Royal), may serve as an eighth strategy by which additional opportunities for these types of development may be achieved... Due to the opportunities for non-residential development provided by this annexation, the opportunity for waterfront commercial development, and the City's need for more commercial, professional and mixed use lands, Planning Division staff recommends approval (his emphasis) of the proposed annexation."

Mr. Daltry also refers to and relies on an "economic study prepared by Paul Van Buskirk for the Economic Development office." In that 2007 study, Mr. Buskirk envisioned that Cape Coral, "just as a race-car driver must turn the wheel and operate the accelerator, so must the city's policy makers and administration plot a course and implement strategies that will propel this 'growth engine' toward its vision as the urban center of Southwest Florida." YIKES! Anybody up for a ride with Thelma and Louise? Mr. Buskirk lays out strategies to accomplish this nightmare. Of those: Strategy #2 "Increase annexations for commercial/industrial development." Strategy #5 "Acquire and develop parcels for commercial / industrial uses." And that sounds all too familiar.

Cape Coral is not a good neighbor. As long as we are unincorporated there is nothing to protect us from the Cape's inevitable further encroachments. Lee County has no interest in helping us. The people who have the best interests of our community at heart are the people who live in our community. We need to take our fate into our own hands. We need to incorporate.

Scott Wilkinson




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