For residents who successfully argued that a nearly 200-acre plot of land along Four Mile Cove Parkway should remain zoned single family, the victory is may be only temporary.
That's because those who want to develop the property see the project as an opportunity to grow the city, and the approval process will continue before a final decision will be rendered by the Cape Coral City Council on the land use amendment that would allow development plans to proceed.
During the Planning and Zoning Commission's regular meeting Wednesday in City Council chambers, the board in a 5-2 vote sided with the nearly 50 residents who said the 193.8 acres should remain zoned for single-family homes and not allow multi-family homes or apartments to be built across the street.
The developer, Brandenburg Properties of Florida, based out of California, had made a request to amend the future land use map to make 77.43 acres multi-family residential for up to 700 units, adjacent to a single-family neighborhood and the Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve.
The rest of the site would be designated as natural resources/preservation land.
The land has direct frontage to the Caloosahatchee River, and 60 percent of the site consists of wetlands.
Neighbors say development would decrease property values, harm the environment in an area where endangered species such as eagles and gopher tortoises live, increase traffic and destroy their view of the preserve with possible transient residents.
It was traffic concerns on an already-busy Four Mile Cove Parkway that particularly drew concern from the P&Z commission. It was decided the development plan was too intense for that neighborhood and the proposal too broad in nature.
Eric Fiechthaler, former mayor of Cape Coral and representatives of homeowners Phil and Judy Griffin, expressed residents' concern, adding they hadn't heard from the developers of any plans they had for the property.
"Over the years, we have enjoyed getting to know our neighbors and cultivating friendships," Judy Griffin said. "It's the unknown that is threatening this community."
Others, such as Maryann Wilson and Ed Keisel, said the construction of multi-family homes would decrease the value of their homes.
Ultimately, P&Z commissioner Patti Martin said the board has no power to impose conditions.
"Land-use amendments are one of the difficult cases that come to the commission because you just have to say yea or nay. You cannot impose conditions," Martin said.
The vote was just a recommendation. The matter goes before the city council on June 2. If the council approves it, it will go to the state for approval before going back to the city for a zone change, if approved.
Commission liaison Rana Erbrick cautioned that this is "the first baby step in a very long process and the developer doesn't have to pony up total plans."