As we close the door on 2016 and the presidential elections, we begin to look ahead at issues facing city council, and the topics and subject of growth, infrastructure, utility expansion, and education. I have chosen to take a look at the hottest topics, and issues facing the city for 2017. Here is the list……..read more. City Council Elections. The make-up of city council has always been full of internal turmoil, but 2016 turned out to be one of the worst, when it came to the mayors personal issues. Marny Sawicki and her personal troubles almost fractured the council. Fortunately her position as mayor comes up for election this year. Several district positions also are up for election this year as well. There may be 4-6 names placed in the hat for mayor, and several for each of the district delegates as well. It ought to be an interesting year in local politic’s.
LCEC. At issue here is that the topic of breaking away from Lee County Electric Coop franchise and take over the utility itself for its Cape Coral customers. If the dispute is not resolved by election time, it could be a political hot potato. Service under the LCEC franchise has been excellent, however many feel we are being over charged for the power we use. Right now we have a contract with LCEC, it will be up to city staff to negotiate a new contract or must come up with an alternative.
Bimini Basin. Bimini basin is in the downtown corridor offering a large gulf access lake, a recreation center for meetings, a playground, a man made beach, and a quiet park like setting. The vacant land at the north end of the basin, has had 3 potential uses proposed that would bring commercial, hospitality, pedestrian friendly environment, and entertainment activities, into that area. I have watched the basin over the last 20 years as developers bring their ideas for its development….and nothing ever came of it. Personally I do not believe any project will move forward for 2017….but have my fingers crossed.
Charter Schools. Several years ago the city ventured into the education arena, and it had quickly been proclaimed to be the gem of the city. Here is the issue….the municipal school system was never intended to be paid for by tax players, beyond the initial $500,000 seed money. The problem is that the capital funding needs far exceed what they have available. With over 3500 students enrolled, it will be interesting to see how council resolves the funding short fall?
Pre-Platted Community. The founding fathers established Cape Coral as primarily a residential community. It was designed to be 92% residential and 8% commercial. That situation has never been resolved, and places a serious burden on tax payers for the needed infastructure, common area development, and utility services expansion. The problem facing council is how to attract new commercial development, and other big projects, when you have 92% of the city platted in 80 x 125 lot sizes.
Misc. Items. There will be issues with the upcoming North-2 water & sewer expansion project. When the city decided a few years ago to downsize each expansion and limit it to a 4-5 square mile undertaking, it became hard to obtain competitive bids for re-paving the roads. The number of paving contractors bidding for the work has been very small, and not competitive in pricing. The Chiquita Lock has also been a topic bantered around for almost a decade. Its removal will once again be on the table for council discussion. Residences impacted by the lock, have for years wanted it removed for property value increases, which will be significant. Higher paying jobs has always been a goal for the city. Past council’s, as well as this one have been working on this for years. Incentives and other cost and tax reductions for start up companies will need to continue, in order to attract new business. Our sunshine and mild winter climate is not enough to draw new companies to our area any longer. And last but not least, the old golf course in the downtown fringe area will once again be up for discussion, as it has been for over a decade. At issue is to convert it to a city park, or to allow developers like DR Horton to build single family homes on the site. This can has been kicked down the road to long and needs a resolution. As the city approaches 200,000 permanent residences, the challenges become more dramatic and costly. Growth is good, but needs to be at a manageable pace and expenses held in check.