Cape Coral City Council heard testimony on nine ordinances, and voted on one, regarding zoning changes on numerous properties in the northern part of the city during its regular meeting Monday at City Hall.
The council is considering changing the zoning in mostly undeveloped areas to the north from residential to Marketplace Residential, so it can plan where businesses will be allowed to go. Those areas are expected to become major intersections in the years ahead.
Of the nine ordinances heard, eight of them will get a final hearing May 20. The ninth was voted on during Monday's meeting.
It involved seven acres of land near the intersection of Nelson Road and Wilmington Parkway, a parcel that the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended denial of rezoning for during its April 24 meeting.
One resident made an emotional plea to follow P&Z's lead, saying the location is bad for business because there is no pass-through traffic and because many neighborhoods would have to look at the rear of the buildings.
"We can''t base our decision on emotion but on legal facts. There's no way to validate anything you said," Councilmember Marty McClain said. "We are many years out from anything happening there."
The land use designation for the properties was changed in 2010. For any development to occur, the zoning must match the land use.
The change in land use was fostered from a state referendum, Amendment 4, which if passed, would have required all land use changes to go to referendum.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said that would have "trapped them in time."
There were some concerns from the public during the input session of these quasi-judicial hearings. Among them were how business growth would impact evacuation routes in case of hurricanes in the years ahead, and how businesses would flourish when there are so many empty commercial outlets now.
But in a city where 92 percent of development is residential - and where City Manager John Szerlag said optimum development should be 40 percent commercial - the need for more business is acute.
"More commercial development takes the tax burden off the residents," Mayor John Sullivan said. "We're trying to bring in jobs."
"Commercial businesses are donors of tax dollars. Residents are recipients," Szerlag said.
There also was some discussion about the definition of Marketplace Residential. Staff explained it allows for neighbor-friendly establishments such as restaurants and offices.
Szerlag explained it as somewhere "you can buy a sandwich but not a refrigerator or car."
The city is doing its planning for commercial nodes in areas expected to be major intersections in the decades to come, so when commercial and residential development does occur, there will be no surprises.
In other business, council unanimously passed a resolution to increase the maximum balance in the bank checking account maintained by the city attorney's office from $2,000 to $5,000, and to grant a Certificate of Public Convenience to Peter A. Caivano to operate 20 limousines or taxis within the city.