August 27, 2016
7 Island development plans
I’ve watched with growing alarm as the Northwest Cape and Seven Islands Vision Plan has unfolded. I attended the June 29, 2015 Vision Plan kick-off meeting where Community Development Director Vince Cautero spoke about the need to include residents and his commitment to include multiple opportunities for public input, and where City Manager John Szerlag declared that “(what) we need to be clear on is what does the community want, and how do we get there?”
I’ve watched as numerous unadvertised invitation-only closed door meetings were held for special interest groups, while a very few poorly advertised highly scripted public meetings were held, which limited participation to a minuscule number of Northwest Cape stakeholders and which inhibited the free flow of ideas from those stakeholders who were able to participate. There were only about seven hours of truly public input opportunities, far short of the 72 hours promised at the June 29, 2015, kick-off meeting.
The city never followed through on its promise that “surveys will be sent to residents to solicit assistance.” I did participate in a Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association survey sent to NWNA members, representing less than 10 percent of the Northwest Cape residents. The NWNA survey results showed that the vast majority of Northwest Cape NWNA members wanted buildings on the 7 Islands to be limited to two stories with parks, waterfront dining, and single-family homes. Although those NWNA members responding to the survey represent less than 5 percent of the Northwest Cape residents, I believe the vast majority of Northwest Cape residents would agree: parks, waterfront dining, and single-family homes, and nothing over two stories. So, that’s what the community wants, and did the city figure out how to get there, as promised by Szerlag? Not even close!
At the Aug. 22 City Council meeting several council members made it clear that they wanted to maximize residential density and go high. The least-dense option presented to them includes four-story buildings and 490 residences progressing to 10-story buildings and 1,300 residences. Meanwhile the Northwest Cape portion of the vision plan has fallen off the radar. The original vision plan concept recognized that to achieve the long-term goals of growth the Northwest Cape with an eye toward improving quality of life for everybody, the plan for the 7 Islands must be developed within the context of an overall vision and plan for the Northwest Cape. So, why has this overall plan been shelved? I believe it’s because the majority of council members view the 7 Islands as a cash cow to fund the Bimini Basin project. Szerlag predicts that development of the 7 Islands will be completed in five years. Yet there’s been no talk about hiring a city project manager to handle the 7 Islands / Northwest Cape development, while the council just approved hiring a project manager for the Bimini Basin. And, there’s been no talk about “go big or go home (read high rises)” (Council members Erbrick and Leon) or “I’ll take (the most intensive development plan) because I like the density,” (Councilman Burch) for Bimini Basin, only the 7 Islands.
Some have referred to the 7 Islands as the crown jewels of the Northwest Cape. They’re not. At this point they’re uncut diamonds that, in the right hands could become crown jewels. Unfortunately, the city wants to sell these uncut diamonds to the highest bidding developer, destroying any possibility that they’ll be molded into the crown jewels they could have become, gone forever, given up for a fast buck.
- Russell Moody, Cape Coral, FL 33993