The Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) was created more than 40 years ago as a voice for residents and business owners, advocating for the health, safety and quality of life in our community.
Today, as residents of St. James City, Pine Island Center, Pineland, Bokeelia, Matlacha, Matlacha Isles and Cape Royal, we have an important decision to make about our future.
Over the decades, GPICA has worked to preserve and maintain a desirable, livable community that promotes smart growth and preserves sensitive natural areas by working with Island residents to develop a future land-use plan — the Pine Island Plan — governing growth rules. Over the past two years, these protections have been put at risk:
• After legal challenges to the Pine Island Plan, the Lee County Commission revised it in 2016 to allow greater building densities.
• On Dec. 12, 2016, the City of Cape Coral annexed six parcels covering 5.47 acres in Matlacha. Members of the Greater Pine Island Community had no say in the vote and, under Cape zoning rules, the city could add additional boat ramps, a marina and buildings up to eight stories tall.
In addition to the public safety risks that increased building densities pose to the Island during
hurricane evacuations, they also risk the coastal-rural way of life that embodies our community.
In response, GPICA began studying whether Island residents could better control our destiny by incorporating as our own town. GPICA hired BJM Consulting, Inc., to conduct an initial feasibility study to explore whether incorporation would be financially possible. We also completed an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) related to incorporation.
In July 2017, we sent a letter to 7,148 registered voters on Pine Island, Matlacha and Cape Royal to gauge interest in continuing our efforts to study and move toward incorporation and included a postage-paid postcard asking whether GPICA should continue to investigate incorporation. (See the documents we mailed.) The results, when we reported them on Aug. 3:
Total postcards returned: 2,505
- 80 percent, or 1,997, voted yes to continued exploration of incorporation
- 20 percent, or 508, voted no
A breakdown by Pine Island community showed that only Cape Royal voters wanted to opt-out of incorporation:
- Bokeelia: Yes, 755; No, 143
- James City: Yes, 992; No, 199
- Matlacha: Yes, 217; No, 43
- Cape Royal: Yes, 33; No, 123
The non-binding straw poll was just the first step.
Next, GPICA had BJM take another look at the numbers to see whether incorporation was still fiscally feasible without inclusion of the Cape Royal community. The GPICA Board and its incorporation sub-committee also created a charter document to broadly define the purpose and goals of the town, including its purpose to be a small government representing Matlacha, Matlacha Isles, Pine Island Center, Pineland, Bokeelia and St. James City.
In September, we presented the charter, financial feasibility study and results from the straw poll to members of the Southwest Florida legislative delegation (state Representatives and Senators).
At that time, the delegation requested that we hold off on officially submitting incorporation, as the Legislative calendar was full and so we could continue to gather input and support for incorporation. We expect to present incorporation to our delegation again in 2018, with the goal of having them bring it to the floor for a vote. Once the legislature approves, and the governor signs off, the question will come back to Pine Island voters for their final say in an official election conducted by the Lee County Elections Office.
Now, we are working to reach out to residents on Pine Island and in Matlacha to provide information about incorporation and continue to gauge interest and support.
The GPICA Incorporation Subcommittee Members: Noel Andress, Ken Cox, Michael Dreikorn, Mike Shevlin, MaryKay Stevens, Greg Stuart