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General Support/Services Division

Vacant Lot Program

The City of Cape Coral's Vacant Lot Program oversees the areas listed below. Please click the topic of choice or scroll down for more information.


Vacant Lot Mowing
The City’s lot mowing program benefits the citizens of Cape Coral by controlling vegetation, growth, and inhabitation of vermin. In addition, the Lot Mowing Program funds the removal of invasive or harmful non-native plant species. Some common questions and answers about the program can be found below:

How many mowings are there for the year?
There are 13 mows yearly, except for those parcels in an eagle’s nesting zone, which could get as few as four mows if the eagles are nesting. The mowings, beginning in early February, are done every 2-6 weeks, with the final mowing occurring in November. No mowings are scheduled for the months of December and January.

--> View 2024 Lot Mowing Schedule

How Often are Lot Mowing Program fees billed?

Lot mowing fees are included with the property tax notice. The charge is based on the area where the lot is located. 

I only have one lot. Why am I being charged for two?

The Lot Mowing fee is based on an equivalent lot or each 5,000 sq. ft. of a parcel. 

I don’t want the city to mow my lots. Is the program mandatory?

Per City Ordinance 111-03 Sec. 9-81, all unimproved real property in the city shall be included in the city Lot Mowing Program. Individual property owners may request an exemption from the program upon submission to the City Manager or his/her designee and a written statement. Property Owners are to indicate in the written statement that they are requesting an exemption from the Lot Mowing Program, stating that they intend to ensure that their property will be routinely mowed so that the height of grass, weeds, and underbrush thereon will not exceed 12 inches in height. The City Manager or his/her designee may revoke an exemption if the property owner fails to keep the property mowed as required. Send exemption request to the City of Cape Coral, Customer Billing Services Division, and P.O. Box 150006, Cape Coral, FL 33915-0006.

What do I do if building takes place during the year?

Your lots will continue to be mowed until they are scrapped and building commences. At that time, the mowing is automatically ceased. Upon the owner’s request, a credit refund may be issued for any mowing that has been billed but not performed.

If I sell my lot, do I need to notify the city?

No, ownership changes are received and updated on a daily basis from the Lee County Property Appraisers Office.

Who do I contact if I have a complaint about the vacant lots?
Complaints can be reported to the City by contacting the 311 Call Center at (239) 574-0425 or 311 or emailing the information to 311@capecoral.gov

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Pepper Tree Removal Program
The City of Cape Coral administers a program for removing exotic and invasive vegetation from vacant lots enrolled in the City Lot Mowing Program.  The most common exotic and invasive vegetation in Cape Coral is the Brazilian Pepper Tree (or bush); hence, the program is usually called the Pepper Tree Program.

This program is two-fold:
  1. It provides relief to homeowners where invasive vegetation from vacant lots is encroaching on their property and causing damage.
  2. Also, it lessens the overall amount of exotic and invasive vegetation, which can promote the growth of native plants and help Cape Coral be more ecologically friendly.

Please email 311@capecoral.gov or call “311” with any questions regarding Pepper Tree Removal on or bordering your property. (Note: The City of Cape Coral no longer responds to complaints on Pepper Tree/Exotic Vegetation. Removals are scheduled by district). One important note: the City does not remove Australian Pines or other pines or oaks.  Also, while the City does remove Pepper Trees up to the top of canal banks due to erosion concerns, it does not remove trees between the top of the canal bank and the canal itself. 

pepper tree with seasonal berries

   




 Brazilian Pepper Tree with seasonal berries
 (Also called Christmas berry, Florida holly)

 Large pepper tree/bush

  



Large Pepper Tree/Bush

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Burrowing Owl Trimming

Florida Burrowing Owl: Athene Cunicularia

Owl burrows located on unimproved lots that are part of the City Lot Mowing program are eligible for trimming as part of the burrow trimming program.

Appearance:
The burrowing owl is a pint-sized bird that lives in open, treeless areas. The burrowing owl spends most of its time on the ground, where its sandy brown plumage provides camouflage from potential predators. One of Florida's smallest owls, it averages nine inches in height with a wingspan of 21 inches. The burrowing owl lacks the ear tufts of the more familiar woodland owls. Bright yellow eyes and a white chin accent the face. Unusually long legs provide additional height for a better view from its typical ground-level perch.
burrowing owl
Photo courtesy of Brock Castle

Habitat & Behavior:
The Florida burrowing owl occurs throughout the state, although its distribution is considered local and spotty. The presence of burrowing owls is primarily dependent upon habitat. Humans have created new habitats for burrowing owls by clearing forests and draining wetlands. Burrowing owls inhabit open native prairies and cleared areas that offer short ground cover, including pastures, agricultural fields, golf courses, airports, and vacant lots in residential areas.

Historically, the burrowing owl occupied the prairies of central Florida. Recently, these populations have decreased because of disappearing habitats, while populations in south Florida coastal areas have increased due to habitat modification by humans.

Burrowing owls live as single breeding pairs or in loose colonies consisting of two or more families. Unlike most owls, burrowing owls are active during both day and night. During the day, they are usually seen standing erect at the mouth of the burrow or on a nearby post. When disturbed, the owl bobs in agitation and utters a chattering or clucking call. In flight, burrowing owls typically undulate as if they are flying an invisible obstacle course. They also can hover in midair, a technique effective for capturing food.
pair of burrowing owls
Photo courtesy of Brock Castle

Burrowing owls use burrows year-round for roosting during the winter and for raising young during the breeding season (Feb - July). Florida's owls typically dig their own burrows but will use gopher tortoise or armadillo burrows. Burrows extend 4 to 8 feet underground and are lined with materials such as grass clippings, feathers, paper, and manure.

Burrowing owls mainly eat insects, especially grasshoppers and beetles. They can be of special benefit in urban settings since they also consume roaches and mole crickets. Other important foods are small lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, and rodents.

Threats:
The burrowing owl faces many threats to its population.  The main threat is the continued loss of habitat.  Threats to habitat include the development of construction activities and harassment by humans and domesticated animals.  Heavy floods can destroy burrows in the ground, which can cause the destruction of eggs and young.  Other threats include increased predation by ground and aerial predators in the burrowing owl’s habitat and vehicle strikes.

Maintenance:
Trimming via weed whipping, the Burrowing Owl Protection Buffer Zone can provide various benefits for the Burrowing Owl.

burrowing owl
Photo courtesy of Brock Castle

12 Tips for Trimming Owl Burrows

1. Carefully and slowly approach the burrow.
 

2. Look for approaching vehicles; use care not to spook birds into flight into oncoming traffic. Wait for breaks in traffic to approach.
 

3. Scan the area around you; look for predators (e.g., cats, hawks, eagles, etc.) that may be looking for the opportunity to take the owl once frightened away from its burrow.

 4. If predators are in the area, skip the burrow and return later or the following day.

 5. If all is clear and the owl refuses to fly off or retreat into the burrow, skip trimming. Come back at a later time or the following day.

 6. Begin trimming from the outer perimeter and work toward the center. This gives the owl(s) time to take flight or enter the burrow for shelter. Keep it brief; complete all work in less than 5 minutes.

 7. A good height for trimming is between 3”-4”, which is similar to the height of a typical mowed lawn.

 8. Only weed whips are to be used. No mowers or other equipment is permitted within the protection buffer zones.

 9. Use careful foot placements to avoid collapsing burrows.

 10. Do not put hands or weed-whip heads into burrow entries. Burrow entries may be carefully cleared with a small hand rake.

 11. Beginning late fall/early winter, the owls will begin to decorate burrows with litter. Do not remove it.

 12. During the nesting period, be careful to watch for chicks, as in the early stages, they are curious and flightless, and parents are extra protective.

Links:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/owls/burrowing-owl/

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
http://ccfriendsofwildlife.org/

Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
http://www.crowclinic.org/

National Audubon Society
https://www.audubon.org/


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