The Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) was created more than 65 years ago as a voice for residents and business owners, advocating for the health, safety and quality of life in our community.
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. (For the extensive information and background on the development of the Pine Island Plan, click here.)
• 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 (GPICA Incorporation Subcommittee Members: Noel Andress, Ken Cox, Michael Dreikorn, Mike Shevlin, MaryKay Stevens, Greg Stuart) 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.
The Board 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 expected to present incorporation to our delegation again in 2018, with the goal of having them bring it to the floor for a vote.
However, the community has expressed concerns and the move forward with incorporation has been placed on hold. While we believe the community will eventually need to incorporate in order to control its own destiny and protect the coastal-rural character of this unique Island, the GPICA Board is seeking to address issues that residents care about in other ways.
In June 2022, when the City of Cape Coral moved to annex numerous land parcels at the intersection of Pine Island Road and Burnt Store Road/Veterans Memorial Parkway GPICA members and area residents began speaking again of incorporation. Then GPICA President Helen Fox provided an update and the Association invited a speaker from the Florida League of Cities to attend our October meeting to provide information and background on the incorporation process. However, Hurricane Ian disrupted those plans and the GPICA turned its focus to recovery.
With continued development on the Island, discussions of incorporation are once again coming to the fore. In November 2023, the GPICA Board wrote about its updated stance on whether incorporation is right for the community at this time and has also invited a speaker from the Florida League of Cities to be the main speaker at our December 2023 meeting.