Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Don Ruane  News Press   druane@news-press.com

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.