Protest, legal action aimed at Cape Coral annexation plan

MATLACHA, Fla. — The Matlacha Civic Association to file suit against Cape Coral over the city’s plan to annex five acres of land near the island community, an issue that prompted more than two dozen demonstrators to line Pine Island Road on Sunday.

Protesters and the civic association contend the city is infringing on the environment and a way of life for many in the island community.

“Everybody here gets up in the morning and they pinch themselves because this is Shangri La,” said Michael Hannon, one of the protesters. “It’s not gonna be Shangri La if we let Cape Coral do this. It’s gonna be Cape Coral. I’ve tried Cape Coral. It’s not for me.”

The civic association has set up a fund that has raised more than $20,000 to cover the costs of its legal fight against the city. It intends to file its suit Wednesday.

Cape Coral City Council vote 4-3 last month to move forward with a plan to annex the land, despite vocal opposition from several who turned up at the council meeting to speak against the idea.

The land is along Pine Island Road not far from where the protest took place. Commercial growth along the road has been robust in recent years, gradually working its way westward toward the island.

Cape Coral already owns the land, despite it having been outside of city limits. The city hasn’t made any decision about what will go on the land, though the council has discussed the possibility of selling it.

The city could rezone the undeveloped land for commercial use if annexation were to go through. That’s a major concern for those who picketed Sunday.

“It makes me really sad,” protester Gabriele Solterra said. “You know, I moved here and I’m sure many people come here because of the beauty of the island and the diversity of plants and animals, and to see it kind of start disappearing, it just hurts me in my heart and my gut.”

Reporter:Taylor Bisacky
Writer:Chuck Myron