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Make your positions known

By Staff | Jan 22, 2009

To the editor,

At 8 a.m. on Jan. 27, the Planning Commission Land Development Review Committee will recommence discussion of Section 86-43 – Appearance of structures; size and mass of structures. This is a continuation of LDC discussions that were held this past summer at a time when the least number of resident/homeowners were present, and presumably when most residents/homeowners were unaware that such discussions were taking place.

Discussion of design issues moved along smoothly, but when limitations of structure size were discussed at the Sept. 23 meeting, we hit a snag. The proposed ordinance that we were to discuss and vote upon, and that would then be passed along to City Council for further public hearing and discussion, contained wording that would require a full hearing in front of the Planning Commission should a person seek to build a home above a certain (and much diminished) square footage per the specific lot size as predetermined by a new Planning Commission formula. Further, “Regardless of lot size, any single family dwelling that exceeds 5750 square feet of living area shall be scheduled for a Design Review Public Hearing with the Planning Commission.” (Similar to the Mimms debacle). This would have inserted the Planning Commission into the normal function of the Planning Department, and at the same time would have devalued many properties on Sanibel without the knowledge of many property owners.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed and we unanimously voted to postpone further discussion and action until such time as a greater number of stakeholders were on-Island and therefore either able to attend or to be in a position of greater awareness.

Our Planning Commission meetings are generally attended by a small band of regulars who have anointed themselves as watchdogs for the community. They are vocal and consistently cynical, believing that the worst of greedy elements will ravage our island sanctuary if not for them. Such is not the case. They do not represent the future of Sanibel; they represent an obsolescence that we must get past in order to ensure that Sanibel will become remain a viable community attracting a constituency that will help us preserve and build our tax base. By creating more roadblocks to both business development and home building, we accomplish just the opposite.

I am writing today to urge you all to attend these meetings and to voice your opinions to the Planning Commission. If you cannot attend, then send someone who will accurately report the proceedings back to you, who will not feed you their biased opinion of what took place. Send us your opinions and questions by e-mail. Make your positions known. Above all, do not allow a small group of naysayers decide for you what Sanibel should be in the coming years. Understand that there is a synergy between the environment and economics, and that to protect our environment, our businesses must prosper as well. Businesses should not be painted with an evil brush, nor should people be discouraged from building the home of their choice that meets all of our LDC requirements.

There has been a totally unfounded rumor put out by this watchdog group that the Planning Commission may do away with Section 86-43. Not true. But if you had not attended meetings, or if you did not have an unbiased report, you might believe this. Make your own observations and decisions. Please attend these important meetings. This is your opportunity to have a say in the future of Sanibel.

Patty Sprankle