Cape Coral residents pass $60 million bond referendum for parks

Cape Coral residents pass $60 million bond referendum for parks
Cape Coral voters support GO Bond parks referendum
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect changes in the designation of some parks that the city made in its bond projects map prior to the measures passing.

Cape Coral residents voted Tuesday to finance a $60 million 15-year bond to add more parks and recreation amenities in the city.

The measure, which passed with nearly 54 percent of the vote, will accelerate the citys parks master plan, which the City Council adopted in 2016.

It includes the creation of three community parks, seven neighborhood parks and one environmental park, as well as upgrades to Cultural Park. The city has 39 parks.

Mayor Joe Coviello said the bond will allow the city to implement its Parks Master Plan at an accelerated rate to keep up with Cape Corals rapid population growth, adding that behind health, safety and infrastructure, quality of life through the parks and recreation program is a key priority for the city. According to worldpopulationreview.com, a website provided by the citys clerks office, Cape Coral has a population of about 190,000 — almost as many full-time residents as Tallahassee.

“We should be able to do a lot of good things to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Cape Coral,” Coviello said. “Im looking forward to working on this over the rest of my tenure, and Im sure the rest of council is, too.”

Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Runyon said neighborhood parks are 10-14 acre while community parks are more than 14 acres and have more amenities.

Two of the community parks — the Yacht Club Community Park and Lake Kennedy next to Sun Splash — will be in southwest Cape. The other community park, Festival Park, is planned for northeast Cape, near Chiquita Boulevard and Kismet Parkway.

Of the seven new neighborhood parks, two are in southwest Cape, two are in northwest Cape, and three are in northeast Cape.

The city estimates the debt service on the bonds will be about 40 cents for every $1,000 in taxable property value. At that rate, the owner of a home with $150,000 in taxable value would be paying about $60 more a year.

Coviello previously said its important for residents to know that the rate would go down over time and that its based on a fixed-dollar amount that would need to be paid off. The city created an online tool for residents to determine how much the bond would cost them, based on their address.

Residents have expressed a range of opinions on the measure in recent months, with some critical of the new tax and what they say is a lack of detail in the citys plans for the parks. Others said they were in favor of the proposal for securing green space in the preplatted city as it grows toward build-out.

City staff will meet with residents to develop site plans for each new park. While the parks master plan has basic amenities laid out for the parks, Runyon said residents will be able to provide input on specifics as long as they are within budget. For example, “instead of two tennis courts, you want four pickleball courts,” she previously told the Northwest Neighborhood Association during a meeting.

The measure does not include the old Cape Coral Golf Course property in southwest Cape or a proposed athletic complex behind the Oasis municipal charter schools.

MICHAEL PISTELLA / mpistella@breezenewspapers.comSigns urging yes votes on the city parks bond could be found all around the city.

Cape Coral voters on Tuesday voted to approve the citys financing of a parks plan to be paid for with $60 million in general obligation bonds.

Mayor Joe Coviello said it is a huge victory. With public safety and infrastructure being the top priority, the fact quality of life is also of importance to residents pleased him.

“This gives us the opportunity to accelerate those programs, that wouldnt have happened if the bonds didnt pass,” Coviello said. “As the city grows and we do things in a smart manner, you have to grow infrastructure, public safety, and your parks program. This will help us keep up with the growth.”

Councilmember John Carioscia was ecstatic that the city got a mandate to implement the parks plan, which calls for seven new neighborhood parks, three new community parks, a new environmental park and improvements to 20 existing parks.

“We have a professional parks planner coming in, were hoping to get an amphitheater and beef up the parks,” Carioscia said. “There are no excuses now. Were going to move forward and get it done.”

The City Council approved the parks master plan in December 2016. The plan looks to make up what city officials say is a deficit in neighborhood, community and regional parks.

That plan would be paid for through the issuance of the bonds, the debt of which will be paid off over 15 years with a bump in ad valorem taxes. The tax will be .36 mills to start, with possible declines to .17 mills over the life of the bond if property values continue to increase.

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.

With voter approval in hand, a planning stage will come next, where residents will have input into what they want to see in specific parks. Carioscia, who has an amphitheater on his wish list, said input could include where to construct that amenity.

“We can put it in Festival Park or Academic Park or at the old golf course. We have to lay this out before we spend a dollar,” Carioscia said. “We want to have outdoor plays and a symphony orchestra on Sunday.”

Coviello said there are plenty of parks that need improvement now, and thats where some of the money will go in the short term.

“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,” Coviello said. “Now that we have the funding, we can lay out a more definitive plan. We have a plan, now its about the timeline.”


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