An earful for developer of proposed Isles of Capri high-rises

Lance Shearer

Thursday evening, the developers of a proposed condominium complex in the heart of Isles of Capri came before residents in an informational meeting.

Approximately 130 Isles of Capri residents, the great majority wearing matching t-shirts emblazoned with “Save Our Capri Lifestyle” on the front and “NO REZONING” on the back, listened to the presentation from FCC Beach & Yacht LLC, and then spent the bulk of the meeting giving their feedback to the proposed project.

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This meeting was a follow-up to an earlier one in January, and attorney Rich Yovanovich, representing the developer, told the crowd they were not required to hold the additional session. He laid out the parameters of the proposed development, rezoning a 5.32-acre section of what is known on Isles of Capri as the “business island” from C-3 commercial zoning to mixed-use PUD, or planned unit development, including three 168-foot high-rise towers with up to 108 condos.

The property comprises virtually all the so-far undeveloped area on Isles of Capri.

In addition to the Capri residents and development team, several members of the county planning staff, and a sheriff’s deputy, sat in on the meeting. The Capri contingent listened politely, although they clearly had already come to an opinion on the project, only calling out “no way!” when Yovanovich asserted “we really do not impact the view of anyone with this unit” and that traffic would be worse if retail stores, allowed under the current zoning, were built in place of the residential towers.

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As the t-shirts indicated, residents at the meeting were unanimously opposed to the proposed rezoning and development. If any “Caprier” favored the project, they did not take to the microphone to say so. There were no changes to the proposal from the last meeting, and the residents were adamantly opposed, so in general, the two sides just stated their positions with no minds being changed.

The first speaker once the developer opened the meeting up to comments was Joyce Beebe, president of Capri Community Inc., (CCI) the islanders’ association.

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“We are here today to tell you we are strongly against your request (for) rezoning of the property on the business island, owned by Aubrey and Fiddler’s Creek,” she said. She finished by asking “all those who are opposed to the rezoning on Isles of Capri, please stand,” which brought the room to its feet.

The developers of the Capri project are closely linked to Fiddler’s Creek, with developer Aubrey Ferrao the prime owner, acknowledged Yovanovich, although he made a point that the owner and developer of the subject property on Isles of Capri is not Fiddler’s Creek, but that distinction was lost on the residents. One asked if the high-rises were plunked down in front of palatial homes in Fiddler’s Creek, how that would sit with residents there.

One after another, residents took to the mic, and in a couple of cases called in over Zoom, to express how the proposed high-rise development did not fit the ambience of the isles they live on and love. They told the development team the land had been purchased subject to zoning, and they should abide by it.

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Matt Crowder, CCI secretary and head of the group’s Save Capri Committee, batted cleanup for the residents. He told Yovanovich and his team, “we feel like you have given us a choice between something we hate, and something we hate even worse,” referring to the implied threat of high-traffic retail stores if the high-rises are not approved. “Be more creative,” or “build the club – that’s what the property was intended for.” One resident had pointed out the property was originally purchased to provide a yacht club for Fiddler’s Creek residents.

Approval of the rezone, which will require a super majority of four out of five county commissioners, will come after the project has been considered by the county’s planning commission. Yovanovich said they intend to submit their materials to the county in approximately two weeks.

In response to a Zoom questioner, who asked if he would advise against the project, since the residents oppose it, Yovanovich said “I will talk to my client about how to proceed, and we will make a decision to go forward or not.”