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Valiquette, Marks to continue as heads of Planning Commission

By Staff | Jan 15, 2009

Newly-appointed Planning Commissioner Holly Smith was welcomed by her fellow commissioners at an abbreviated meeting of the board on Tuesday morning.

Lasting less than an hour, the meeting started with a vote for Chair and Vice Chair of the Commission. Although the first round of voting for nominees Tom Krekel, Dr. Philip Marks and Michael Valiquette did not yield a majority, a second poll of the board gave the nod to Valiquette to continue as Chairman of the Commission. Dr. Marks was reinstated as Vice Chair.

Getting down to business, a scheduled public hearing addressing an application for a variance to the Land Development Code was postponed

until the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Feb. 10. The applicant, East Branch Canal Homeowners Association, Inc., has requested a variance to the Land Development Code which would allow docks to extend into a canal in excess of the 20 percent allowed by law.

Development Permit applications filed by the applicant propose dredging of about 8,000 square feet of a man-made canal, the removal of mangrove, the replacement of a pedestrian foot bridge and installation of seven single-family boat docks.

The Commission also heard from Mayor Mick Denham, who addressed his concerns about South Florida Water Management District Governing Board member Charles Dauray, who voted against the $1.34 billion agreement to buy more than 180,000 acres of agricultural land from U.S. Sugar Corporation for Everglades restoration. The measure passed by a margin of 4-to-3.

“He’s turned his back on Southwest Florida,” said Denham, adding that Council has requested a letter be drafted to Dauray outlining the City’s displeasure with his recent voting record on matters of importance to Sanibel. Dauray represents Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Hendry counties on the SFWMD Governing Board.

In other business, Commissioner Paul Reynolds expressed concern about a recent scale infestation that seemed to be overwhelming native plants on Sanibel.

According to information published online by the Lee County Extension Service, the scale is an insect that feeds on native plants – especially firebush, croton and other such vegetation. Although it is reported that the scale is fairly easy to obliterate, the sooty mold condition left behind by the insect is not. Mealybugs, which prey upon the immobile scale insect, may be an organic answer to the infestation.

However, the infestation has not yet been completely investigated, and the Council is awaiting a staff report on the subject before taking action. Denham said that report would be distributed to Planning Commissioners as soon as it is available.

The Planning Commission will meet next on Jan. 27 at 8 a.m., when the body will be seated as the Land Development Code Review Committee, before the Planning Commission meeting starts at 9 a.m. Any business left to be discussed by the Land Development Code Review Committee will be completed at the conclusion of the Planning Commission meeting.

Among items up for discussion at the LDCRC meeting is a revised ordinance for preliminary plat extensions, which would allow City Council, with Planning Commission recommendation, to approve an additional two-year extension beyond the two years now allowed by code.

The issue was raised by the developer of the Wulfert Point Estates subdivision, who has faced numerous delays due to wildlife and water, along with other governmental regulations.

Also on the agenda is continuation of discussion about potential amendments to Land Development Code Chapter 86, Article II, Section 86-43, which pertains to the appearance, mass and size of structures in the city.

Reynolds warned his fellow board members that they were in for a passionate debate on the subject, and suggested seeking input from as many members of the community as is possible.

“We have a luxury that some of the people who wrote these codes still live here,” said Reynolds. “We can get their input on what exactly they meant.”