Cape Coral has ended delays to construction caused by the endangered smalltooth sawfish.
The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday that updated an agreement between the city and the Army Corps of Engineers.
It once again gave the city the authority to approve Army Corps construction permits and expedited the process with some new restrictions.
The projects affected homes being built on the water. Seawalls, docks and boatlift construction was temporarily halted due to the endangered fish found in local waters.
A study of the sawfish’s habitat as well as other marine life conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service caused the Army Corps to review the city’s permits which were expiring.
The agreement lasped in October that allowed the city to issue construction permits on behalf of the corps. Since then, permit applications had to go through the corps, which increased potential waits to an estimated 3 to 18 months from the previous 24 to 48 hours.
“This gives the city and any resident five years of stable permitting,” said Mike Ilczyszyn, city business manager.
Part of the new solution includes a 10-day consideration period in which NOAA Fisheries could comment on permit applications, said Tunis McElwain, with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Myers Regulatory Office. If the application meets the terms and conditions of the permit, it will get approved.
He called it a type of one-stop shop for permits and a more efficient way to operate.
“It is about jobs in our city,” said Councilman Kevin McGrail.
Members of the construction industry praised the collaboration as well as elected officials who supported the efforts.
“Thank you to city staff,” said Heather Mazurkiewicz, executive vice-president of the Building Industry Association. “You’ve been proactive. When the rug was pulled out from underneath…you came out ready to take on the issue.”
Also addressed and approved this evening was an ordinance that established a land use classification for recreational vehicle parks. This opens the door for The Resort at Burnt Store Lakes, a multimillion dollar, upscale, RV Park planned off Burnt Store Road in northwest Cape Coral.
Cliff Repperger, vice president of Avalon Engineering, who is involved with the project of the upscale RV resort, complimented the result. Expectations were set for size of the property, appearance, boundaries and type of vehicles to be used by registered guests .
Robert Hancik, a nearby resident, commented on the project saying he had no issue with it except the name. He said many places nearby have similar names and it would confuse emergency workers if an incident arose.
Officials are considering a name change and have Tranquility Lakes as one of the options.
Finally, in a 7-1 vote, with Derrick Donnell dissenting, the city approved a resolution that supports the Cape Coral Municipal Charter School System receiving money from the Lee County School District to assist in balancing its budget. Donnell said the issue was one for the state, not the school district.
Lee Bush, administrator of the system presented at the meeting. He said they are not in a financial emergency but have needed to dip into its operating expenses to pay their full debt payment. They also have reserves.
“We’re only concerned about the money that Cape parents who attend our schools paid,” Bush said. “We need Lee County to give our parents’ tax money back to the schools.”
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