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Oral arguments presented in MCA lawsuit

September 11, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

Last week 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Keith Kyle heard oral arguments regarding the Matlacha Civic Association's lawsuit against the city of Cape Coral's annexation of 5.6 acres of property in Matlacha.

Steven Griffin represented the city of Cape Coral and Steven Brannock of Brannock and Hum-phries represented the Matlacha Civic Association.

The court allowed each attorney 20 minutes to present their case.

In December 2016, the Cape Coral City Council voted to annex 6 lots on Matlacha Island to the city of Cape Coral. Shortly after the city showed plans for the property that included new boat ramps and a two-story building and restaurant.

The Matlacha Civic Association sued Cape Coral requesting a review of the annexation because the city "has not met the requirements of the annexation statute..." and "the property to be annexed creates an illegal pocket or enclave in violation of the statute."

In an audio recording of last week's hearing, Brannock identified the 6 lots as the "Gateway to Matlacha," and maintained that the city's annexation must be reversed because the property is not contiguous to Cape Coral.

"Our argument very simply is the standard in this case, because it's a petition for Cert, is that they (Cape Coral) have to show that there's substantial evidence establishing their compliance with the statute and there simply isn't any," Brannock said.

Brannock also maintained that a geographic feature such as a canal may create a barrier to whether a property is contiguous and providing urban services (electric, sewage, etc.) has not even been addressed by the city.

Matlacha resident Mike Hannon provided written comments about the hearing stating, "Griffin admitted that the Cape Coral hearing was supposed to be 'quasi-judicial,' meaning that witnesses must be sworn and subject to cross-examination; however, this was not done."

Judge Kyle said during the hearing that there was no evidence before the City Council as to how utilities would be supplied to the annexed lots by Cape Coral and how the lots and Cape Coral can become a unified whole, with free exchange among the residents of the two locations.

Griffin maintained that the property is contiguous across the canal and utilities could possibly be provided under the canal by condemning neighboring Cape Coral properties stating, "we negotiate condemnation proceedings to acquire properties."

Judge Kyle inquired about possible development of the annexed properties.

"Cape Coral Assistant City Attorney Steven Griffin was evasive," Hannon wrote about the hearing. "At one point saying maybe a park, and another time saying maybe commercial. So, the judge said 'Oh, the plans are secret.' The judge was concerned that Cape Coral was not being straightforward with the people of Matlacha and Pine Island about its plans."

Hannon believes Judge Kyle will write an opinion soon.

The city did not respond to a request for comment.



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