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.

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