Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cape council gives Community Redevelopment Agency vote of confidence

Don Ruane  News Press  druane@news-press.com

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.