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Matlacha Civic Association meeting

January 24, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Those attending the Matlacha Civic Association meeting last Wednesday evening got an alternate view on incorporation as well as a status update on the annexation lawsuit against the city of Cape Coral.

Greg Stuart offered a slide presentation entitled "The Case Against Incorporation."

Stuart, president of Greg Stuart Design, is a Matlacha resident and an urban planner specializing in land use planning. He, along with Phil Buchanan, was involved in the original Pine Island Plan and he was hired by the county during the 2016 revisions to the Pine Island Plan.

Article Photos

Urban planner Greg Stuart addresses Matlacha Civic Association meeting.


"What I'd like to do is offer the other side of the story," Stuart, has been a land use planner for 30 years, told those assembled. "My slideshow is the case against incorporation."

Stuart listed a number of reasons why he thinks incorporation isn't feasible, starting with what he says is an inadequate tax base and inadequate population base

"If you look at Pine Island and measure it against other Lee County cities at 43 square miles it would be the second largest city in Lee County yet with the lowest population density, and the lowest ad valorem tax base," Stuart said. "If you look at the state's municipality incorporation statute it clearly states that you have to have 1.5 persons per acre. The Greater Pine Island's number is 0.334 persons per acre."

According to Stuart, 66.1 percent of Greater Pine Island is conservation and agricultural land, providing no taxes for an incorporated city. All taxes come "out of the residential component."

Further findings suggest the island's commercial land inventory is insufficient for economic sustainability; 52.5 percent conservation land offers no tax revenues; the incorporation study does not address natural disaster impacts; long term effects from climate change; except for Stringfellow Road and Pine Island road the Greater Pine Island area would be responsible for road repair and rebuilding; infrastructure and public works management.

Some Matlacha residents voiced concerns about the expense that would be incurred by Matlacha property owners, if and when Lee County mandates that sewers replace all Pine Island septic systems. Matlacha is on public water and sewer.

"We had support from the Lee County Commissioners a number of years ago," GPICA president Roger Wood said. "That's all changed now that we lost a commissioner that supported us with one that doesn't making the vote 3 to 2 against. All of the support Pine Island had in the past can be changed in an election."

Stuart and Wood touched upon future annexations by the city of Cape Coral as well.

"Also the properties near the annexed property has been identified by Cape Coral as 'investment opportunities'," Wood said. "And the way this annexation worked was that the property was 'across a body of water' and could be annexed. This poses the threat of future annexations."

Stuart believes the Pine Island Plan will protect Matlacha and Pine Island from future annexations.

"The Pine Island Plan is on sound constitutional ground, it's a better plan... and the county buffering standards increased for Pine Island...," Stuart said.

Meanwhile, Michael Hannon, a Washington D.C. attorney who has been consulting with the Matlacha Civic Association in the lawsuit against Cape Coral provided an update on the city's annexation of six lots that the municipality owns.

"As everybody knows we lost against Judge Kyle... the judgement can be found on Facebook Pine Island Strong," Hannon said. "It was an interesting decision the judge basically agreed that they (Cape Coral) improperly annexed it under the statute but he ruled that the Cape Coral plaintiffs don't have standing. He (Kyle) relied on some cases challenging annexation by adjacent cities. There's no law that says that actual citizens in Cape Coral don't have standing to challenge the annexation."

The Cape Coral City Council voted to annex the lots in December 2016, resulting in the lawsuit in hope of reversing the annexation.

The case will now go to the District Court of Appeals for discretionary review where three judges will review the case.

"We're hopeful that the Court of Appeals will be a little bit more removed from some of the pressures that trial judges are subject to," Hannon said.

According to Hannon for this next step, a lot of the work has already been done.

"This is an appellate process and the fees associated won't be anything like we've spent so far," Hannon said.

Stuart's presentation is available on Facebook page "Pine Island Strong."



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