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Leave Section 86-43 alone

By Staff | Dec 18, 2008

To the editor,

A letter from Dale Armstrong in the Dec. 11, 2008 issue of the Island Reporter addresses the issue of overly large homes on Sanibel. Mr. Armstrong apparently believes that if you can afford to build a mansion, you have a right to build one — anywhere you wish. The letter ends with the injunction “Don’t amend Section 86-43 — repeal it.” Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen!

Section 86-43 is the section of the Sanibel Land Development Code which requires that new residential construction not interrupt the rhythm of existing structures or be inharmonious with the general atmosphere and character of the existing neighborhood. In most localities, the only limitations on home size are found in mandated set backs together with coverage and building height limitations. In those localities, given a large enough lot, one may construct a home so large that it completely dominates and alters the character of a neighborhood, if not the entire landscape in which it is situated. Good examples are the enormous Greek revival mansions under construction on Captiva. Captiva residents do not enjoy the protection of Section 86-43, since Captiva is part of unincorporated Lee County.

The principal reason that Sanibel residents chose to incorporate as a City in 1974 was so that they could regulate land use on Sanibel through their elected City Council. In 1990, the Sanibel Council adopted Section 86-43 to insure that our neighborhoods would not be disrupted by new construction so massive as to be totally out of character with existing structures. Is that a limitation property owners’ freedom of choice? Perhaps it is — but that is what zoning laws do. They regulate, within reason, what property owners may do with their property to achieve a greater common good. Make no mistake — without Section 86-43, there will be nothing to prevent mansions on a scale of those under construction on Captiva from being built on Sanibel. All that would be required is a large enough lot.

It has been suggested that Section 86-43 should provide additional guidance or standards to property owners, design professionals and those who enforce it. For that reason, the Planning Department has been asked to recommend amendments to Section 86-43 to address these concerns. Those amendments are to be presented to the Commission in January. However, there are those like Mr. Armstrong who believe City Council should repeal Section 86-43 altogether. If you believe Sanibel needs a strong Section 86-43 to protect the character of its neighborhoods, attend the Planning Commission meeting at which its fate may be determined and make your feelings known. Be assured, those who favor repeal or weakening of the law will be there.

Loss of or weakening of Section 86-43 would have a profound negative effect on Sanibel. We must not let that happen.

Larry Schopp

Chair, Land Use Planning Committee

Committee of the Islands (COTI)