Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CRA to stay as is

By Chuck Ballaro, Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The seats in council chambers were filled with concerned citizens from Banyon Trace condominiums Monday night during the weekly City Council meeting at City Hall.
They were concerned about what the Community Redevelopment Council would do with the golf course land nearby so it wouldn't be such an eyesore.
They were also concerned there wouldn't be a CRA at the end of the evening.
Turned out their trip was unnecessary. There was no discussion on the golf course property due to ongoing litigation, and the CRA is not going anywhere.
After Chris Chulakes-Leetz withdrew the sponsorship of his ordinance to dissolve the CRA into a council-run entity, Kevin McGrail, in a surprise move, took up sponsorship so it could be denied.
Leetz withdrawal came in response to increased dialogue between the CRA and city council. Leetz, however, made no promise another ordinance wouldn't be considered.
"I believe we'll make inroads with promises of fiscal responsibility on the CRA," Leetz said. "The CRA's future is still in the air because of the economy. Seventy percent of the money goes to support staff that has no money to redevelop."
McGrail picked up the proposal as a vote of confidence in the CRA and in hope another dissolution order wouldn't be brought forth in the future.
"I wanted to vote on it so it wouldn't become a zombie ordinance that would come back and surprise us," McGrail said. "It's a vote of confidence for the CRA."
CRA chairman Richard Greer appeared before council to thank them for the improved communications and to state his hopes for a new beginning for the CRA.
"This is the start of a monumental journey for the downtown area," Greer said. "With us wanting to get things done and city council as a willing partner, it allows us to do the things that need to be done."
Chambers was filled with "Area 12" residents, many from the Banyon Trace Condominium complex, which sits near the abandoned golf course.
When McGrail asked those in attendance if they wanted to keep Area 12 a part of the CRA, more than 75 percent in attendance rose.
It turned out they needn't have spent the gas money. Still, residents seemed happy with the decision made by council.
And though the vote to deny was unanimous, Leetz was confused as to why McGrail made a motion to deny when his withdrawal of the ordinance was all that was needed.
"It's illogical to sponsor a bill to deny it," Leetz said. "The motion to deny doesn't make it go away forever. I'm disappointed to sponsor something to deny it."
"My point was clarity and to give a vote of confidence to the CRA," McGrail reiterated. "After reaching the 11th hour, it was time to stand up and be counted."
With the unanimous vote, most of those in attendance went home, with council soon to follow after its very short meeting.
Leetz understood their presence. He also understood his ordinance had the desired effect.
"Banyon Trace used to overlook a beautiful golf course, now it overlooks wild Florida. They want it to look attractive in the future," Leetz said.
"When you call attention to an issue, it tends to remediate itself. There's no need to slash and burn like the Financial Advisory Council," Leetz said.

For More, Visit The Breeze

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cape council gives Community Redevelopment Agency vote of confidence

Don Ruane  News Press

Group will still make decisions.

Cape Coral’s Community Redevelopment Agency should continue to make its own decisions, the City Council decided Monday.

The council voted 8-0 against an ordinance calling for power to be switched from the CRA board of directors to the council.

Improved communication between the CRA and the council saved the day, according to Councilman Chris Chulakes-Leetz, who first sponsored a proposed ordinance to make the change.

CRA Chairman Rich Greer said he’s also encouraged by the improved relationship with the council. “We will be here frequently to get your support,” Greer said.

Chulakes-Leetz dropped the proposed ordinance as a result, but Councilman Kevin McGrail stepped up to sponsor it so the council could make its position clear.
“I view this as essentially a referendum on our CRA,” McGrail said.

The vote to deny the ordinance was 8-0.

In spite of the bureaucratic nature of the proposal, it drew about 50 people from the CRA district to the council meeting. Most live in Banyan Trace, a condominium on The Golf Club site. During a workshop last week Chulakes-Leetz said he might accept a compromise with the CRA board if the board agreed to remove The Golf Club area from the district.

“I can think of no area that needs more transformation than the golf course area,” McGrail said.

The Golf Club area’s status as part of the CRA was not changed by the council’s vote.

“I want to thank you for the action tonight. It was wise on your part,” Banyan Trace owners spokesman Mike Wells told the council.
Residents want to see The Golf Club cleaned up.
“We’re looking at a lot of weeds and black soot and a lot of critters that weren’t there a few years ago coming up to visit,” Wells said.

The city’s goal is for the CRA to buy the course and make it into an attractive destination for golfers. But the owner, Florida Gulf Ventures, sued the city after the City Council decided the company couldn't build a mixed-use facility on the property. The 175-acre course closed in 2006.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Dear Neighbors and Friends

As you recall, the area around the former golf course as well as the golf course itself were added to the Community Redevelopment Area in 2009. The reason for this annexation was to legally allow the CRA to purchase and manage the golf course, and to pay the debt on the purchase through the use of any normal increases in property taxes generated by our area that would go to the CRA and not to the City general fund.  The CRA is not a taxing body, but just gets the increase in taxes that occur because of increasing values.

And, though the owners of the golf course property are currently in litigation with the City, it is still the plan for the CRA to ultimately purchase and operate the golf course.

Now, Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, the representative for our District 4, is proposing removing the area from the CRA, so that the tax revenue can be captured by the general fund and spent throughout the City.

I am asking you to e-mail City Hall to oppose any effort to remove the area from the CRA.  The CRA undertook the preservation effort at the request of the former City Council, and this City Council needs to understand the will of the people is to keep the area in the CRA and to keep the plan to acquire the land and operate a golf course on the site.

Please e-mail the City at to ask that the area remain in the CRA, and to commend the CRA for the continued good work it is doing in making South Cape a better place for residents and visitors alike. Also, if your schedule permits, please attend the City Council Meeting on Monday, March 26th at 4:30 p.m. when this issue will be discussed to show your support for keeping the area in the CRA.

Feel free to copy, paste and share letter this with your friends and neighbors.




Don Ruane  News Press

Redevelopment agency's powers to be subject of public hearing on Monday.

A struggle over control of the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency’s power and money is headed to a public hearing March 26.

At issue is whether the City Council should run the agency or a volunteer board appointed by the council. Councilman Chris Chulakes-Leetz is sponsoring an ordinance that would shift the power to the council. He asked for comments from residents before the public hearing, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Shrinking the size of the CRA and giving the council power to approve large purchases or spending by the CRA are possible points to consider for a compromise, Chulakes-Leetz said during a workshop discussion Monday.

“It’s not my desire to slash and burn a dedicated group of individuals,” Chulakes-Leetz said. “We don’t have to kill the whole board. If we do this right, we can have some improved checks and balances.”

Complaints from residents about how the CRA spends its money and what it has accomplished prompted him to sponsor the ordinance, Chulakes-Leetz said.

The councilman said he’d like to take the area surrounding the 175-acre The Golf Club out of the CRA. It hasn’t produced any money or projects for the CRA since it was added in 2009, because of the decline in taxable property values. A portion of the property taxes from the city and Lee County help fund the CRA.

The council has to decide whether the city wants the taxes generated from the golf course area once real estate values rebound, Mayor John Sullivan said.

“The rasslin’ match is going be whether we want to spend the money or leave it up to the CRA,” Sullivan said.

The CRA is controlled by a seven-member board of volunteers appointed by the council.

“We don’t haphazardly make these decisions,” said CRA board Chairman Rich Greer, who noted that members have a combined 250 years of business experience.

“All the feedback I’ve been getting is you guys are being linked to the failures of the past,” Councilman Kevin McGrail said.

“They spend nothing more than what authorized to spend in their bylaws and statutes,” said Councilman Marty McClain, who is the council’s liaison to the CRA. He said he doesn’t know where the council will find the time to run the CRA, too
Greer said he was happy that the workshop remained a discussion and did not become adversarial.
“I want to build bridges. I don’t want to build walls,” Greer said. The council and the CRA are working better together than ever, he said
The CRA will improve its communication with council, Greer said. Better communication could have avoided the current situation, he added.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Written by  Dick Hogan   News Press  visit;

North Fort Myers golf course site is sold

Lochmoor Country Club property goes for just $3 million.

Paradise Preserve in North Fort Myers on Friday for $3 million — a fraction of its $94 million foreclosure in 2009.

Brandenburg Properties bought the 18 parcels comprising the roughly 400-acre former Lochmoor Country Club from Minneapolis-based Mic-Monte LLC, according to Lee County Clerk of Court records.

Mic-Monte is owned by Minneapolis-based Marshall Investments Corp., which loaned developer Paradise Preserve LLC $79 million in 2005 for the ambitious redevelopment of the golf course and marina along Orange Grove Boulevard.

But the project was never built although the developer shut down the golf course, which became overgrown with brush to the dismay of neighbors.

Starting Friday, Schooner Bay Realty took over management of the community’s marina, which is operating, said Tad Yeatter, the broker of Schooner Bay Realty, who represented Brandenburg in the sale.

Brandenburg has no immediate development plans for the site, he said.

According to the company’s website, it has built golf courses and has “special expertise in creating, designing, entitling and developing golf course projects,” working with top golf course architects, including Tom Fazio and Arnold Palmer.

Joan Huerth, who lives near Paradise Preserve on Seafan Circle, said she’d like to see the golf course restored.
As Lochmoor, she said, “It was a great little course. They served breakfast, they had fish fries. I’d like to see that again.”
As it is now, the property isn’t a good neighbor, she said. “People hear coyotes howling there all the time and a rattlesnake nailed a dog last year.”