To the editor:
I am writing about the discussion last week by council concerning the Chiquita lock. It was stated that the property values of the waterfront homes behind the lock would skyrocket in value with a new lock. Please tell me exactly what expert rendered this opinion to council. If the lock was made larger to accommodate larger vessels then SOME properties might increase in value. However, any homes located behind a bridge would not see a benefit from the larger lock as the size of their possible boats would be limited by the size of the bridge it must pass through to get to the spreader canal.
It was stated that the volume of boats passing through the canals would be handled more quickly and that would raise values of properties. That again is an erroneous conjecture. Consider this analogy. Recently the toll booths were removed allowing for cars to pass with increased speed out of the city. The removal also allowed for wider vehicles to pass unimpeded through the former restricting toll booth area. Using council rational, every homeowner in the Cape should have skyrocketing values as travel on the roads out of the city is now better/faster. Obviously, this is not the case.
Homeowners with waterfront properties are not the only ones passing through the locks. From my lanai I can watch many sightseers coming down the canal and then making the turnaround as it dead ends. Many of these boaters live on dry lots with boats on trailers who come to enjoy the calmer waters and look at the lovely properties.
If every potential property is considered to be a current/future boat owner and would be assessed, we must be fair. Every slip and rack at the Marina that could have a potential boat must be figured into the shared cost. An assessment for every possible boat would need to be charged to the Marina at the same rate as the properties. We must stop the continual subsidizing of our businesses by the homeowners. If the Marina would need to raise rates then so be it. Don't even consider charging the property owners for the Marina's share.
Using the councils' rationale, the waterfront property owners in the northwest part of our city should be paying for the removal of the Ceitus lock and all of the studies and testing done as their property values should have skyrocketed when that lock was removed. Looking at the assessed property values in that area it did not happen.
Again, council stated that those that would see a benefit to their properties should pay the costs. There is a benefit to be within walking distance to our many parks, especially for those with children. Should properties within a given radius of a park pay for that amenity? Although those parks could be used by anyone in the city (as could the Chiquita lock) they are most likely the primary users. Are you going to charge them for the maintenance of the park in their neighborhoods? When we repair/replace roads on the smaller residential roads, there should be an increased value to those homes. Do we charge those residents the costs of repair or replacement of their street? Not currently, but who can predict in the future.
I would propose a user fee. Set up a toll camera on the lock and sell sticker passes similar to the Sunpass system. The camera could record violators with a picture of the boats' license/registration. Signs could warn of a stiff fine of $100. Costs to implement the program would be factored into the toll costs. I feel that $10 would be reasonable. The additional needed revenue should come from a surcharge on boat license/registration. If it needs to be a hundred dollars or more a year than that is more palatable to the residents. One may understand a user fee but doesn't believe the property value argument. Ask Mr. Wilkinson if he would assess properties behind the lock higher if the lock was improved or replaced. His expert opinion would carry more weight that a council person just making a guesstimate. If the lock is maintained or simply replaced, boats can still travel to the river/gulf. Right now boats can travel to the river/gulf. There should be no difference. During the months when there was an experiment and the lock was left open did values skyrocket with the increased ease of entering and exiting? Of course not.
In summary, all waterfront property owners will not see the same benefits and should not receive the same charges. Never before in recent history have we charged a $25 million dollar project that all in the city can use to a small group of our property owners. To start charging for benefit to an area or neighborhood is a slippery slope.