At the June 7 meeting of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association, Greater Pine Island Water Association Executive Director Mikes (Mike) Maillakakis gave a presentation on the conceivable causes and possible outcomes of the recent annexation by the Cape Coral town of properties located just east of Veterans. Memorial Parkway and Pine Island Road.
The city of Cape Coral is pursuing annexation in two ways, he said – voluntary and involuntary annexation through a special act. Focusing on involuntary annexation through a special act, he said, would be a “deep dive,” involving a bit of island history.
“Our franchise (GPIWA) goes through Lee County. We service unincorporated areas of Lee County. It would be Pine Island, Matlacha and a bit into Cape Coral. When the city annexes, we lose this franchise,” Maillakakis said.
The current franchise agreement to serve these areas will be in effect for another 28 years (until 2050). Islanders should be as concerned as the water association board about any annexation of unincorporated Lee County by Cape Coral, he said.
“When a city annex, you walk out of unincorporated Lee County and into the city”, Maillakakis said.
Although Pine Island and Matlacha are currently unincorporated, they are protected, through development codes previously outlined in the Land Development Code, he said. Within the Lee County LDC, sections are dedicated to the Pine Island Plan, which protects the island from overdevelopment.
“Chapter 33, community planning, article 3, talks about Greater Pine Island, article 6 talks about Matlacha. These are the sections developers don’t want to have to deal with,” Maillakakis said, explaining that these articles protect the island from widely contested development plans deemed acceptable in other cities.
Maillakakis urged GPICA members not to think about this annexation from their perspective, but rather think about it from the perspective of developers, who may wish to have their properties no longer considered unincorporated in County County. Lee by annexing all they can in the town of Cap Corail. Many of the problems developers face via the restrictions of the Pine Island Plan are easily solved by annexing properties on the island, at which point, any land successfully annexed ceases to be unincorporated Lee County, becoming at the place part of the city of Cape Coral. The state offers 3 ways to annex land, in addition to the previously mentioned special involuntary annexation, he said.
“What they’re doing right now is they’re going to create a new law. This is called enclave annexation by special act. Maillakakis said.
According to Maillakakis, on March 9, the Cape Coral Committee of the Whole presented a strategy for annexation of the enclave, devoid of any Pine Island stakeholders, such as representatives of Pine Island civic associations, the service of Matlacha/Pine Island or Greater Pine Island fire. Water Association to weigh in. Maillakakis then shared a myriad of possible future enclaves, including off-island properties, to which annexation by the city of Cape Coral is in progress or has been requested.
“Very strategic – this edge of the city keeps moving west. It keeps moving west gobbling up properties, turning them into enclaves so that after the fact those enclaves can then be annexed,” Maillakakis said.
Using the Matlacha Ci-vic Association’s legal battle to retain D&D ownership in Matlacha as an example, Maillakakis said it was easier for a developer to deal with the City of Cape Coral than with Lee County. , due to the LDC, under which Pine Island is protected by the Pine Island Plan.
“It took them three years to undo this annexation… first they had to find a judge who would listen to them, so they appealed twice, but they ended up finding a judge who would listen to them and that judge read the Florida statutes and then realized…these properties are not contiguous to the city and nullified the annexation. I don’t think the city was happy about that. Maillakakis said.
In light of this case, he said, the city of Cape Coral may have learned a valuable lesson by annexing one property at a time to force enclaves and re-annexation. The first step in putting in place this law that would allow annexation by special act is for Cape Coral to approach local representatives and senators seeking congressional sponsorship at the meeting of the legislative delegation of the Lee County on August 18, 2022 at Florida SouthWestern College. In order to be placed on the agenda, the Cape Coral must submit this special act to the delegation before August 6th. Influence in the form of meeting attendance, emails, letters or phone calls from those opposing this proposed special act is vital to countering the sponsorship and creation of the bill, a- he declared.
“In 2003 the city annexed enclaves by special law and they got a sponsor and House Bill 421 was created and their sponsor was Rep. (Jeff) Kottkamp. This bill was passed in the House. This bill passed the Senate…but over time, enough people found out about it and enough people let their legislators know they opposed it and, due to public outcry, the sponsor of the bill – Rep. Kottkamp – told the governor to veto it. This is the first time I’ve seen this… you have power. Democracy works. Maillakakis said.
Maillakakis said the GPIWA requested a price proposal to present at the August 18 delegation meeting. Fire President’s Board Commissioner Tonya Player says the fire board unanimously approved $100,000 to be transferred from emergency reserves to the legal fund to protect citizens from two sides of the bridge.