Saturday, March 24, 2007

Prioritize current residents

Cape Coral Breeze

Saturday, March 24, 2007

To the editor:

In an article the other day regarding the possible changes to the Executive Golf Course, Alex Le Pera was quoted as saying that people cannot “buy a view.” I beg to differ. In many areas of this country it is illegal for one homeowner to block the view of another. Building codes and landscaping regulations are in place to protect rights. The rights of the current residents are protected rather than the rights of the new potential resident.

I believe that Realtors always say location, location, location is the most important issue directly bearing on the value of a property. Purchasing property with a view directly affects the value of that property. If I buy a house that overlooks another house, as so many do here in Cape Coral including mine, I know that I will pay less for that property. If I purchase a house or vacant land with a golf or water view the land is priced significantly higher than the lot with no view. The Daily Breeze prints this fact of life out for us as we read the real estate section of the newspaper.
Do I want the city to have to purchase all property built around a “view” when the owner of the view decides they can no longer make a profit from the land in its current state? I don’t think so. However, if I had a home on a golf course, and had paid a premium for a property with that view, I would be unbelievably angry and upset. It is not fair or reasonable to build behind those houses. Those homeowners would be cheated out of the proper value of their homes. I’m sure that there will be enormous legal difficulties if we proceed in that direction. There is a heck of a difference between the quiet of a golf course and the noise that a group of condominiums, a public park, or a sports field would bring into an area.

Cape Coral has been the butt of jokes about foolish rules and regulations for the 20 years that I have lived here. Couldn’t we use this situation to our benefit rather than an addition to the jokes? We are supposed to be living in Paradise; if we are, then we obviously must respect the property rights of our current residents above the rights of future development. Should this mean less development? No, just smarter development.

I understand the situation that the landowner is in, too. He is stuck with land that does not pay its way for him which is an awful burden. Couldn’t we reduce the misery of both the homeowners and the landowner at one time? The use plan should have to include real protection for the families who live around the current golf course. There should be a large, green heavily planted area that will increase the size of backyards of all the homes involved. If we take away value we should replace that value. Property values should be kept the same. Directly behind this wooded area should be a high sturdy wall that is faced with stone, so that it will be very attractive. In place of the golf course, the homeowners would get a larger property, very heavily planted with native plants, and a wall behind. Although there won’t be that golf course view, the residents will have received an actual concrete benefit to replace the one lost. Include extending the residents’ current sprinkler systems to this plan as well. There will be those who complain, but I think actual compensation in the form of additional property and plantings should be agreeable to most.

Then, with reasonably happy residents in place, we can address the landowner. Let him build expensive and elegant condos using low or medium rise buildings. Strangers should not be looking down into your backyard.

We should address another problem for everyone in Southwest Florida at the same time. Specify they use native plantings only to work to everyone’s benefit with water savings. Never give the building tax breaks; give him or her ease of building breaks. Allow the builder to have more leeway than the average builder has now. Do much quicker painless permitting with no compromise to safety. This would be for design and density issues only. Hire more workers to accommodate this process.

It must be remembered at all times that Cape Coral is being developed for its residents. Developers will eventually finish building and leave, but residents will be living here for the long haul. Show that we respect our residents; changes happen but with a strong focus on an actual concrete benefit for impacted residents, we prove that we are Paradise indeed.

By doing this we will reassure our current residents that the city is sincere in caring for their wellbeing. With quicker permitting we will also show developers that the city is a good place to build. Actually, it would be a wonderful marketing tool; tell the world that we encourage development that respects the rights of current residents.

Sunny Dowling

Cape Coral