Among the items the Cape Coral City Council addressed Monday night was an ordinance to amend the Judd Creek development project to include a gas station and convenience store and allow numerous deviations from requirements for easements, walls and landscaping.
Despite staff's recommendation to not allow some of the deviations, the measure passed unanimously, with all deviations allowed.
This ended an almost six-year quest for the owner of the property, who a month ago found himself rewording an ordinance on the dais with the Planning and Zoning Commission and questioning the city's desire to be business friendly.
The RaceTrac gas station will have 10 pumps, or 20 filling areas, with a 5,900-square-foot store with indirect access to Pine Island Road, not far from Merchants Crossing shopping center near U.S. 41.
Staff was concerned about some deviations, among them were the lack of shade trees in front of the building, with palm trees put there instead, and signage size.
However, council found no harm in that.
"Putting up canopy trees after putting up a sign doesn't make sense," Councilmember Kevin McGrail said. "The timeline for this has cost jobs for the city."
Councilmember Derrick Donnell questioned property owner Will Stout on if the city would have to assume the risk should financial problems arise.
"The building doesn't get a certificate of occupancy until the building is done and infrastructure is finished," Stout said. "This is a criminal waste of financial resources. I object to it. I'm tired of government protecting us from ourselves."
On Oct. 3, an expected easy approval by the P&Z turned into a two-hour negotiation at the dais over language written six years ago, frustrating Stout to the point where he questioned the city's business friendliness.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz, also the P&Z liaison, remembered that day well,
"It was an education when this came to P&Z. This is a well-respected developer who wants Cape Coral to grow and an excellent company like RaceTrac that's worked with us," Leetz said.
"The city manager talks about the need for making the city business friendly. This is an example," McGrail said. "That we have to wait until 2013 for jobs is foolish."
After an hour of discussion, in a meeting that lasted until well after 11 p.m., council gave the ordinance unanimous approval.
Craig Deardon of Realmark Developers was happy it was over, although he bemoaned the lack of streamlining and the money it cost.
"We're happy to have growth and activity," Deardon said. "This could have been done through an administrative hearing, where staff could make decisions. Everything worked out, but it was a year worth of effort and lots of fees."
Judd Creek is 200 acres and is expected to include 1,100 units of multi-family dwellings and 200,000 square feet of commercial space on the road front.