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Decision on Judd Creek delayed to April

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jan 13, 2021

news@breezenewspapers.com

Despite the approval from two city agencies, the Cape Coral City Council on Wednesday decided to continue to April 7 an ordinance that would have amended the Comprehensive Plan by removing the Judd Creek Sub-district. The action came after hearing from concerned residents and from the city’s community development director.

Wyatt Daltry, planning team coordinator for the city, said the reason for the removal is to remove restrictions within the sub-district from areas presently mapped as such.

The sub-district, 190 acres on the border of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers, was created in 2003 after the city annexed the site.

Issues were raised by the state concerning overdevelopment in the Judd, Yellow Fever and Hancock creek natural areas due to concurrency issues on Pine Island Road which, at the time, had two-lane sections.

Due to the lack of supporting  infrastructure, restrictions were placed, limiting development to 1,170 dwelling units and 250,000 square feet of commercial development.

Those concurrency issues were removed with improvements to Pine Island Road in 2015-16. Daltry said therefore the purpose for the cap went away.

The new limits would allow for 1,716 dwelling units (16 per acre) and for up to 790,000 square feet of commercial.

Planning & Zoning recommended approval of the change in August, as did the Department of Community Development, and it was transmitted to the state for review. By state statute, it had to be brought forth to the council again for approval within 180 days.

That was in late October, meaning the city has until late April to approve.

Larry St. Amand, who lives on Barrett Road in North Fort Myers, said he had an issue with receiving a notice on Dec. 26 on the zoning change and said it would greatly affect the neighborhood, adding that it “stinks to high heaven.”

“I was told by someone at P&Z it would be a wording change, but when he gave the presentation, it would actually increase the density by 46 percent; that’s not a small number,” St. Amand said. “We already have a two-lane road everyone has to exit and enter.”

St. Amand added that it included projects in progress, which means that Phase 1 is complete and they’ve cleared the land for Phase 2. If it passes, it means more people.

His wife, Christina, said Judd Creek is a protected area, with three natural creeks and concerns of development dating back nearly 20 years.

“We were not made aware of this density change in the letter and this is the first notice of anything changing since the apartments were permitted to be built on the corner of Barrett and Pine Island roads,” Christina said.

With the access point on Barrett Road, this will result in heavy traffic on that two-land road, making it dangerous, Christina said.

Community Development Director Vince Cautero said the process of amending a comprehensive plan is complicated.

“The state made it so there are many steps in the process and we have two ordinances that relate to this that work in concert but not at the same time,” Cautero said, speaking of another ordinance that would change the land use map, which was introduced Wednesday. “It’s nothing underhanded, it’s just how the process works. This process is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Cautero suggested the ordinance be continued, which council approved unanimously.

“It’s a nice piece of property and Lee County is looking at some 20/20 purchases. We want to line it up with the parts that are coming forward,” Mayor Joe Coviello said. “The continuance will let us examine what’s going on and make sure the public is aware of it as well.”