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Cape gears up for $60 million parks plan

November 8, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

With voter approval in hand, the city of Cape Coral is getting ready to launch its $60 million parks master plan.

"We don't intend to let the grass grow under our feet," said interim Assistant City Manager Connie Barron on Thursday.

The vote on Tuesday's referendum, which authorizes the city to issue General Obligation bonds to fund the plan, was 53.58 percent in favor to 46.42 percent against.

Next week, city staff will sit down to determine the timeline for moving forward with the bonds and work to start as early as February.

"We will hold community meetings where the neighborhood parks will be identified and the community will see what they want to see in these parks," Barron said. "We want to give those residents the opportunity to tailor the park for what they would like to see."

Barron said the city would move quickly on the park improvements that are identified in the plan such as playgrounds, sun shelters and other amenities to the existing parks.

Among the items to be worked on first should include removing the pavilion at the Yacht Club beach, Barron said. Priorities will be determined next week regarding which new parks will be created first.

"There are things we can do right away. That's some of the low-hanging fruit we can do right away and determine the other parks to be built over the next few years," Barron said.

Sands Park in the southwest part of the city might be easier to advance because water and sewer is available, while the parks in the northeast would also be a priority because there are no parks there, Barron said.

"We have 19 parks that need improvement. We will tackle some of that first. Then, from there, do the buildout of the neighborhood and community parks and we have a plan for the Yacht Club," Mayor Joe Coviello said. "Now that we have the funding, we can lay out a more definitive plan. We have solid plans for what we want to do and where; now it's a matter of when that takes place."

"We have a professional parks planner coming in, we're hoping to get an amphitheater and beef up the parks," Councilmember John Carioscia said. "There are no excuses now. We're going to move forward and get it done."

While the city starts that process, it will go to the market for the GO bond issue. Barron said the city would make the offer for the bonds, which get sold very quickly.

"We will find out how the market responds. GO bonds are highly sought after by buyers because they are secured by the full faith and credit of the city," Barron said. "We expect a good response and once the sale has occurred, those bonds will be available."

The debt on those bonds will be paid off over 15 years with a bump in ad valorem taxes. The tax is will be .36 mills to start, with possible declines to .17 mills over the life of the bond if property values continue to increase and as more people move to the city.

The money will fund seven new neighborhood parks, an environmental park, development of three community parks, acquiring land, and improving at least 19 existing park facilities.

Had the referendum failed, the city would have had to pay as they went, which would have taken much longer, officials said.

The old golf course property and the possible construction of an Oasis Sports Park are not included as the master plan which was completed before those ideas were brought forward.



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