A proposed lease agreement between the city of Cape Coral and the South Florida Canoe Kayak Club is back on the table Monday.
After a pair of continuations, Cape Coral City Council will again consider authorizing a $10-per-year lease with the nonprofit group. The club currently offers youth sport development programs and camps as well as a para canoe program and private lessons out of a city-owned home and property at 418 S.W. 3rd Place on Lake Kennedy abutting Sun Splash Family Waterpark.
The agreement calls for a five-year lease with an automatic five-year renewal. During that time, the club hopes to come back to the city to expand its efforts and construct a $12 million paddle sport development and training center. This would include a dormitory to accommodate up to 400 athletes from across the globe, a storage facility, gym, meeting space and more.
If the second phase reaches fruition as the club hopes, it would generate, during its planned three- to four-month training "season," an estimated economic impact of more than $5 million over 120 days, according to the Cape Coral Economic Development Office.
Add in year-round use for things like the youth sports camps and temporary housing for athletes taking part in things like college sporting events and the economic impact shoots to $20 million per year, the Lee County Sports Authority estimates.
It's a pretty impressive plan with some pretty impressive numbers, all the more enticing as no public money -.i.e. tax dollars - is involved.
Council's decision, though, is not a sure yes.
While the lease agreement only specifically addresses the club's current operational site, property owners along Lake Kennedy, Lake Saratoga and other affected lakes and canals are protesting the long-term expansion plan. The "Save the Lakes" coalition has raised a number of concerns, including how numerous paddle craft would affect the power craft already using the 25 miles of interconnected waterways and how a "commercial" enterprise would affect property values.
Some also fear that the development and training center would evolve into a racing facility and that promises made now about impacts will disappear in the future.
A couple of things.
One, the lease agreement guarantees the club little more than the ability to continue the same type of programs it has offered on the site for the last two years.
We see no issue here.
Two, even if the club moves beyond its current programs and lessons and raises the money needed for the multi-million development plan three to five years down the road - minimum - the chances of 400 paddle craft inundating the lakes at any one time is slim to none.
According to the organization, by its nature, the training and development programs planned will be of short duration, one to three weeks per session. Athlete "development" also would be multi-faceted, meaning the programs will include classroom time, physical training and on-the-water sessions.
The bulk also would be offered January through April, which would not conflict with the popular time for local boating, essentially the following few months and on into warmer weather.
Three, as proposed, there will be no racing.
Finally, the club proposal is an allowable use.
Simply put, the lakes are public waterways.
Former Cape Coral City Councilmember Marty McClain, who still has some concerns he says need to be addressed but who thinks the concept is feasible, likened the long-term international training component to a gym: It can accommodate a larger number of users than will ever be on-site, using the same piece of equipment, all at once.
Makes sense to us - as does addressing the perennial cries for both "more things for kids to do" and economic development.
With proper structure and oversight by the city from the get-go, the proposal proffered by the South Florida Canoe Kayak Club can accomplish both while also mitigating any possible negative impact on waterfront property owners.
We suggest the city carefully vet those concerns, examining as well the rental amount and terms to make sure they are fair and consistent with facilities of similar nature.
Then move forward with a lease agreement.