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Pilot program for outdoor seating is a go

February 11, 2019
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Permitted restaurants on Sanibel have the option of moving their approved indoor seating outdoors, as long as it does not increase their total dining seat count, thanks to a new pilot program for the city.

At its Feb. 5 meeting, the Sanibel City Council voted unanimously to implement the Seating Pilot Program, which will run through May 1, 2020. Under the language, restaurants approved for outdoor dining can transfer indoor seats to permitted outdoor locations to provide flexibility during season.

Prior to the vote, City Manager Judie Zimomra shared with council a recommendation by staff to extend the program cutoff date from May 2019 to 2020 since this season is already in effect.

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Dr. Mike Savarese, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University, conducted a presentation on the Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability Due to Sea-level Rise and Storminess on Sanibel during the city council's meeting on Feb. 8.

Council approved the program with the suggested date extension.

In addition to reiterating that it is not an increase in dining seats for restaurants, just moving inside seats outside, City Councilwoman Holly Smith offered to work with the city attorney on language for the program pertaining to dogs. She noted that dogs are currently not addressed for outdoor dining.

The council voted 5-0 for Smith to work with staff on possible recommendations.

Also at the meeting, a presentation on the Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability Due to Sea-level Rise and Storminess on Sanibel was provided by Dr. Mike Savarese, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University. The project is funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The six-month study recently began and will continue through June.

"It's meant to be a first step to get Sanibel to look at vulnerability on climate change," he said.

Savarese is overseeing a similar project for Collier County, which is about two years in.

The study will look at sea-level rise and storminess in coming up with a vulnerability analysis, potential plans for adaption and possible mitigation efforts that the city could implement.

"When you warm the oceans, you fuel the storms and storminess really exacerbates sea-level rise," he said, adding that the goal is engagement. "We're trying to install a hopeful sense, but also cautious."

"This is really just a first step," Savarese said. "It's a way of protecting community assets."

As part of the project, an open house for the public is set for Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. at The Community House. He noted that the study will include Captiva, with plans to work with the sister island.

"It's an opportunity for anyone to come in and express their concerns," Savarese said.

During the meeting, the council also voted 5-0 for applicant Michael Hullihan to replace Richard Johnson on the Sanibel Planning Commission. In March, Johnson will take up Chauncey Goss' seat on the council. Goss was recently appointed to the South Florida Water Management District's board.

In addition, the council discussed options for dredging the Shell Harbor Canal, eventually directing staff to go with the low bidder on the project, to set up public hearings on the project and to write in an extra $100 assessment fee per unit in order to cover a rise in costs and non-reimbursed city funding.

"We're dredging more frequently than thought and the costs have gone up," Mayor Kevin Ruane said, noting that there is about a $20,000 difference, plus outstanding city funds on the previous project.


- Char Durand, the Sanibel Recreation Center's program coordinator, was named the Employee of the First Quarter for 2019.

- Sanibel Police Officer Robert Feliciano was honored for his 25 years of public service.

- A proclamation was read recognizing the city's Tree City USA Designation and a plaque was presented to the Vegetation Committee designating the city's 30th year as a Tree City.



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