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Council approves increased special events deadline, rec center fees

September 14, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Sanibel City Council on Sept. 10 voted unanimously to increase the deadline for special event applications from 30 days to 60 days prior to the event, but drew the line at a ban of off-island advertising.

The special events would be those that are available to the public on public property, such as grand openings, parties, weddings, concerts, fairs and other activities.

The permit for the events would require a $50 non-refundable fee. Another resolution has been drafted to increase the refundable security damage deposit from $50 to $300.

Article Photos

Kevin Ruane

When the subject of off-island advertising during season came up, there was much more hesitation, as the ordinance would have banned off-island advertising during peak season except for social media.

Leslie Anding said during public comment that hotel owners are receiving cancellations for the season and that reservations are down 40 percent by the damage caused by the red tide and algal blooms.

In addition, Mike Miller argued that the events should be focused on hotel visitors and local residents and to open the events to regional visitors could open a Pandora's box that the city would have trouble closing.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said traffic counts are down drastically and other economies are being affected to a catastrophic nature by the water quality situation.

The city council also approved a 2-percent increase in user and some membership fees at the Sanibel Recreation Center and established a revised schedule of rates for the Sanibel sewer system, providing for a 3 percent increase in residential, commercial and reclaimed water rates.

Natural Resources Director James Evans also gave an update on water quality. He said that while the water was looking a little clearer and getting a little cooler, it was still dark. With the predicted El Nino and the wetter than normal conditions expected for dry season, there is still a concern.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham said the big problem continues to be Lake Okeechobee and the high nutrient levels being released into the river.

Ruane said the issue is not so much the quantity of water, but the quality. Water from the Caloosahatchee watershed is as much a problem as released from the lake.

Councilmember Jason Maughan said the problem comes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and that those now in office are not doing their job and should be voted out.

"They are not responsive to the needs of Sanibel residents," he said. "We need a different strategy because what we're doing isn't working and you know they won't do anything."

Maughan added that he was encouraged by the visit U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made to the area on Aug. 24 when he saw what Southwest Floridians are facing.

Another topic that came up was the possibility of suspending the tolls into the city until the water quality improves. The Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce described the $6 toll as a deterrent.

While Ruane thought it would be a great idea, the realities make it difficult if not impossible.

"How long do you do it? We have a $161 million bridge and still have $140 million to pay," he said. "Our heart is in the right spot, but Cape Coral is also suffering. It would be hard to swallow for other communities."

"It's a wicked web," Ruane added.



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