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New proposed development would add thousands of homes, but threatens 700 acres of wetlands

Development threatening wetland
Posted at 11:51 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 09:35:07-05

CAPE CORAL — A major new housing development is being proposed in Cape Coral.

It would add thousands of homes on land that is currently not being used for anything. There's only one problem. More than half of the property contains wetlands, and it’s home to three different endangered species. That has some community members concerned.

“All of us love Cape Coral, so be careful what you wish for," said Pascha Donaldson at the Cape Coral City Council meeting on February 10th.

Donaldson is worried about what thousands of new homes could do to the untouched landscape off of Burnt Store Road.

“I realize you can’t stop development, but you can do smart development, and when you have wetlands, that are so precious to Florida, it’s so important that those wetlands remain, that they’re not disturbed," said Donaldson.

Donaldson is right to be concerned. More than half of the property is currently designated as wetland. 700 hundred acres of natural habitat that the developer, GA Pinnacle Cape Coral LLC, admits will be disturbed, at least somewhat.

We spoke with a wetlands expert at Florida Gulf Coast University about the potential impacts of the loss of wetlands.

“It’s not a coincidence that we are talking about losing wetlands in southwest Florida, which we’ve lost a gigantic amount of wetlands, and the red tide and the blue-green algae. They are absolutely correlated," said Dr. Bill Mitsch.

Mitsch said wetlands are like the kidneys of the environment. They filter our waterways.

“You take these wetlands away and we’re toast as far as these algal blooms," said Mitsch.

But of course, there's another side to consider. The developer wouldn’t speak with us, so we spoke with a housing expert.

“The influx of people who want to live in Cape Coral is unreal, and the housing for them is really tough to find," said Bonnie Schnell, the executive director of Cape Coral Housing.

She’s said any new addition of houses might bring prices down.

“It would help equal it out, and there’s always a need for new housing locally," said Schnell.

The state is currently reviewing the proposal, but soon it will be brought back to city council. Then, they’ll have a decision to make.

“I would ask that this council think about the future," said Donaldson to the council members.

In addition to the loss of wetlands, there are traffic concerns with the proposed development. A study found it could add more than 20,000 car trips per day to the roads in that area.