Sunday, October 08, 2017

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife Candidate Forum // Tuesday Night at 7:00

Dear Friends,

I am so thrilled to tell you that we have heard from several potential primary-winning candidates (at that point, of course, the Primaries will be over and the actual final running mates will be known) indicating that they will be attending our Candidates Forum. This may be one of the only events where you will hear exactly what the hopefuls are thinking regarding Cape Coral's environment and other timely issues such as the widespread and extremely concerning seawall damage and street flooding.

Mayoral Candidate Joe Coviello actually asked the sponsor of another event on the same evening to alter his conflicting debate start time. The other person agreed! He; along with hopefuls John Gunther, Richard Leon, Jennifer Nelson and James Foraker have confirmed that they will attend.

If you only ever attend one meeting of the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, this would be the one. Pressing issues such as conservation of green space and parks and recreational land, discharges from Okeechobee and all water management concerns, contractors/homeowners and the Burrowing Owl, etc. Please come with questions about any topics that you care about. 

In the meantime, I urge you to consult past and current issues of local papers such as The Breeze or News Press
to gain some background knowledge of the candidates and their views. 

The Candidates Forum will be held on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at the Rotary Park Environmental Center at 7:00 p.m. Address:  5505 Rose Garden Drive, Cape Coral

Please come early, we are anticipating a large audience.

Sincerely,

Lori Haus-Bulcock
Corresponding Secretary
Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife

Golf course property positions. District 6 Rick Williams and John Karcher

Rick Williams
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
I'm sorry for the late response.  I needed to get information from our legal department. Although your request of the candidates is OK and will be helpful to your followers, as a sitting Council Member, my rules are a little different.  Soliciting my intended vote and then openly posting it can be an issue with the Sunshine laws. This could be construed as Daisy Chaining.  Although I am pretty secure in my position on this issue, my final decision will be made during our vote at the hearing.  Regards, Rick Williams

 (Update...... At a Monday night council meeting in August, Councilmember Rick Williams voted 'NOT' to transmit to the state for a land use change along with councilmembers Jim Burch, John Carioscia and Mayor Marni Sawicki. 

Those voting in favor of a land use change for residential development were,  Councilmembers Richard Leon, Rana Erbrick, Marilyn Stout and Jessica Cosden). 

John Karcher

Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
I would vote NO.   Keep it Residential / Parks as it is today.
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
The home owners were made a promise when they bought on the golf course and paid a higher price for the lots. I would like to see public / private partnerships to look into ideas that can be a win/ win for the city and all residents.  The Council needs to do a better job listening to the residents.

Thoughts on what may work there:

Let’s keep it so all of Cape Coral can enjoy it.
1. How about a nature park, and look for a private / public partnership to put in the nature park.  It could start small and house all animals found in Florida. They could also  rehabilitate injured animals. Use some of the lakes to teach children about canoeing and kayaking and basis water safety. These uses would hold down traffic and would be quite at night. Surround the area with bike and walk lanes in a well landscaped manor. Parking for the Nature Park could be inside and buffered from the view from the homes.
What if every property owned facing the property was to buy a lot across the street from their home. That would further buffer the area as lots are 120 ft. deep and would push back whatever goes there further from the homes? Rather than have to come up with the cash maybe it could be spread out in the tax bill.
2. Let’s build a park with bike & walk lanes with the exterior well buffered from the homes. Inside could be parking with a band shell like Centennial Park, in Ft Myers Include picnic. tables, a wooded walking trail. Add a food vendor to handle events at the park.
3. Form a committee to approach Horton to again consider a land swap in the NW or NE. Include residents from all 3 areas, along with the city so stake holders are involved with the discussions.  The NW wants smart growth. Let’s make these homes more mid to high price point vs express homes. A gated community likes Sandoval with 2 exits and entrances from the soon to be widened Burnt Store Rd.  Get the UEP started on Burnt Store rd. , draw some new business to the new commercial corridor now.
4. Form a committee and brain storm to discuss what we don’t have in Cape Coral and what would draw people from all areas of the city. The money would come from a public / private partnership.

Golf Course property positions. District 5 David Stokes and James Scneider

David Stokes
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
Both the Tetra Tech assessment summary and the response from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reference very high levels of arsenic at the old golf course property. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection report states “In addition, the GTCL for arsenic is the maximum contaminant level (MCL). Arsenic concentrations in exceedance of the MCL require action to protect human health and the environment. Therefore, the arsenic plume at CCGC requires delineation and implementation of a protective control to restrict the use of contaminated groundwater. The arsenic GCTL is based on total metals.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection goes on to state “The tables and figures indicate composite sampling was conducted. The accepted method for collecting composite samples is the Incremental Sampling Methodology (ISM). ISM requires compositing of 30 samples, within the decision unit and at the same depth interval, to make one representative soil sample. By rule, this must be performed 2 more times resulting in three composite sample results to use in the 95% Upper Confidence Limit (95 UCL) calculation. If ISM will be used for future sampling, please refer to Incremental Sampling Methodology guidance published by the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) for a detailed description of the method and its requirements.”
From the FDEP report they require “All technical documents, including site assessments, submitted to the FDEP for review and evaluation must be signed by a professional geologist or qualified professional engineer, licensed to practice in the State of Florida”.

The FDEP concluded “Based on our review of the Assessment Summary, sufficient evidence has not been provided to demonstrate contaminant concentrations were not the result of historical operations at the CCGC. Consequently, the Site Summary Conclusions cannot be supported”
In July 2016, soil and groundwater sampling was conducted as part of a Limited Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) according to the Tetra Tech report. The data indicated the presence of elevated arsenic in the soil, groundwater and on-site surface water and sediment. The data also indicated sporadic elevated detections of dieldrin in the soil and groundwater.
I would Vote No on the transmittal due to potential public health reasons. The testing performed has shown high levels of arsenic in the soil and water. If this soil is disturbed it could potentially distribute the arsenic and dieldrin contained in the soil and water potentially jeopardizing the health of the citizens in that area. In my opinion protecting the health and safety of our residents is the first job of government. I would also be concerned that future lawsuits could be filed against Cape Coral if Cape Coral Council votes for the transmittal, the DR Horton project goes forward and residents become ill from the chemicals in the future.
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
From the information contained in both reports on chemical contamination, we need to make sure our residents are safe from these chemicals. It would seem this would give another chance to look at making this area or at least a portion of this area a park, greenspace or other recreation facility if it could be safely done. Lee County could take a second look at using 20/20 funds possibly to purchase these lands as not much of the 20/20 money has gone to Cape Coral. Cape Coral could also apply for Federal and State Grants to buy part or all of this land.

James Schneider
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
Fortunately, unlike other candidates, my vote is documented as a firm NO, from the June Planning and Zoning Commission hearing.  As a P & Z Commissioner, I was present for all of the testimony, had a complete copy of the city planner's recommendation, letters from the public and D.R. Horton's support and was the first to announce from the dais that I cannot ever support this amendment to our LUDRs. I can't imagine any reason which will ever sway my decision.  In fact, this specific concern is part of the reason I chose to run for District 5.
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
For the legal and appropriate actions to get to where I hope this land can be revitalized, I need to research further.  BUT, in my hopes and desire, we should be creating park space, to combat the deficit. It is an ideal location.  I loved the suggestions of a "Central Park" made by many community members.  Ultimately we could have a beautiful and peaceful space, perhaps a walking/exercise/bicycle trail, picnic areas, floral gardens for community garden clubs to maintain/compete for awards, and to earn some money for the local business and the city; I would encourage an amphitheater which could draw national talent, with an open air space similar to Wolf Trap in Virginia or Hollywood Bowl in California, on a smaller scale. Removing only the invasive trees and inappropriate growth, and keeping it GREEN space. 



Golf course property positions. District 4 Jennifer Nelson and Richard Leon

Jennifer Nelson

Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
I support the planning and zoning commission's decision from June 7, 2017. However, my hope is we can reach a compromise realizing we would be removing the property off the tax roll. 
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
I like the idea of an opportunity for the city to support some type of revenue generation from that land in the form of green space that offers potential  mixed use options down the road and helps offset the loss of ad valorem. Plus, the space would blend nicely with the long term vision of Bimini Basin.

Richard Leon
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
While there is still much to discuss and information to hear, at this time, I will be supporting the land use submittal. 

Golf course property positions. District 1 John Gunter and Graham Morris

John Gunter
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to discuss my opinion on this matter. I would definitely vote "no" for this change, and I feel the golf course property should be utilized as a park. I did attend the Planning & Zoning hearing and you could see the passion that the surrounding neighbors, and the community at large, wanted to keep this as an open space, or a park area. Unfortunately, the city has ignored our citizens on this matter, like many others, and made their decision solely on what would benefit the city economically.

Question two: If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
My vision for this park area would be to ensure we have something to offer to all age groups of our community. I want to have a space where our community can go and everyone can enjoy. I personally would like to see an advisory board established for a small amount of time, and get community input on exactly what they would like to have there. We need to also ensure that this park would be a good neighbor for the surrounding community, and listen to their concerns.  Also we need to see if their are any state, or federal grants available to assist our city in making this park possible. Here is a list of what I see would be great for this area.
1. Walking/Running/Biking paths throughout the entire area (Promote exercising for all of our citizens).
2. Tennis Courts (re-locate and add additional  tennis courts from the Yacht Club area, which would free up space in a very congested area).
3. Activities such as basketball, volleyball, shuffle board, an open field area just to kick or throw a ball. (Establish a safe place for our youths, so they have a area to productively occupy their time). Not an area for organized sport clubs, just       an area for our kids to go and play.
4. Playground for the smaller children. (a place where a family can go to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment, and promote socialization with all the citizens of our community).
5. Varies senior activities, like pickle ball, and other sports and games for our seniors.
6. Sanctuary for our wildlife that we could utilize to relocate animals there that are disturbed as a result of the growing development in our city.
7. Clubhouse- a location that could be utilize for games for all citizens ( such as card games, chess club, etc.). Also this facility could be rented out to varies organization for meetings, town hall meeting, community meetings, that would help offset the operating expense of this building.
As a candidate for City Council I feel we have a morally, and ethical, responsible to listen to our citizens , and make sure their voice is heard and "strongly" considered, before making a determination on this, or any other matter. As a councilman, I would always have an open door policy and welcome any citizen who wanted to sit down and discuss an issue, and ensure the views and concerns of our citizens are always heard, and considered. Hopefully, the current City Council will hear our citizens loud and clear, and do the right thing on this matter. We need a councilman, or councilwoman, that is  "For the People", and that is why I am running for office.

GRAHAM MORRIS

 ~ DID NOT RESPOND ~  

Golf course property positions. Mayoral candidates, Joe Coviello and Michael Hollow

Joe Coviello
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?

No, I do not want the future land use to be changed and sent off to the state. 
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
Our recent evaluation of our Strategic Parks & Recreation Plan tells us as a city we currently do not have enough land for recreational use.  This property needs to be acquired by the city from the current owners Florida Gulf Venture. The current value of this property is somewhere between 10 and 12 million. We need to either trade other city owned properties, purchase the land or a combination of the two in getting this property back under city control.  The property can then be developed through a public private partnership with many amenities that are favorable for the city.  Potential uses could be hotel resort, banquet hall, golf course or short pitch and put course, tennis courts, restaurants, shopping, park land and other revenue producing amenities to help sustain the development going forward.  My preference is steady sustainable residential growth throughout the city. 

Michael Hollow
Question one:  Will you vote "No" on the transmittal to the state of the future land-use map amendment for the golf course property that would change it from Parks and Recreation to Single-family Residential that would allow for the DR Horton development called The Palm's?
Question two:  If you do not support the transmittal to the state of the future land-use change, what are your thoughts on what should happen with the golf course property?
The issue of the old golf course has been one of much debate and frustration for people, for years.  You asked me two questions, if I may, I’m going to answer both within one answer/opinion.  

The old golf course has been vacated since 2006, there have been several attempts to improve the land via a sale.  These range from the school board, to mixed use housing to the pending purchase by D.R. Horton.  As we saw, the city staff recommended the approval of the D.R. Horton plan and well over the 500 homes that was originally requested.  Currently, the area of the old golf course is zoned R1B (single family residential), with a future land use of PK (parks and recreation).  

There is the possibility of pending law suits from all parties, including the residents, against the City of Cape Coral.  The hard one for me to get past is at what point does the government not have the right to impose against private land sales.  Let’s look at the purchase and sales contract between these two parties (full disclosure I have not seen the P&S, only making my basis from the information obtained at council meetings).  The seller (Florida Gulf Venture) and the purchaser (D.R. Horton) submitted terms that were mutually agreeable amongst themselves.  Within that contract there was a contingency to the sale that required the City of Cape Coral to approve the site plans.  Otherwise the contract, as written, would allow either or both parties to walk away.  

The one question that always must be asked, what is the highest and best use for that land?

In a perfect world, we could come up with a resolution and negotiate with D.R. Horton to modify their plans and development.  In this plan, we collaborate on a true P3 (Private, Public, Partnership), we allow a reduced amount of homes to be built and have them build the city a park on the grounds, about 60-70% of the land (not including water).  In exchange, we give them land, either in the NE or NW allow them to build a community there and build a smaller city park.  

There is a point when government cannot and should not infringe on the private land rights of owners.  But nor should the city allow the area to become overpopulated with the amount of homes that are requested to be built.  

From a financial standpoint, the city would benefit more from allowing a complex to be built, and then area wouldn’t be blighted and desolate.  The current land owner is only required four times a year to mow/maintain the property.  

Furthermore, if we look back to when the discussion came up regarding the 7 Islands, the neighboring landowners wanted a park to be developed.  The city owns that land and determined the highest and best use for the land would be to develop it with commercial and residential.  Why is this transaction any different?  Why are we not considering the highest and best use of the land for this one?

I agree with not allowing up to the 700 homes as indicated at the hearing, but I do not agree with the city denying the project altogether.  We need to bring all sides together, sit down and have an open discussion as to what we want as viable outcomes.