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Developers plagued by wildlife issues may get more time to build

By Staff | Jan 28, 2009

Sitting as the Land Development Code Review Committee, the Sanibel Planning Commission Tuesday approved a revised draft ordinance amending Chapter 114 of the Land Development Code, which regulates the construction of subdivisions.

The amended ordinance, if adopted, will enable the Sanibel City Council to approve, with a report and recommendation from the Planning Commission, an additional period of time for a preliminary major subdivision plat to remain valid beyond the additional two-year extension approval that may presently be granted by the Planning Commission.

According to language added by staff to the original draft ordinance, which was first reviewed by the Land Development Code Review Committee in December, the extension will only be available when the delay is due to compliance with federal, state or local regulations pertaining to endangered or protected species and their respective habitat.

In addition, the applicant must demonstrate that such an extension is warranted for a period of time necessary to comply with federal, state or local regulations.

The proposed amendment was sparked by the quagmire of developer William Broeder, President of the Sanibel Bayou Development Corp., which is developing the Wulfert Point Estates subdivision. Broeder addressed the Land Development Code Review Committee at its last meeting in December to explain his predicament: Eagles and gopher tortoises discovered on the construction site has led to three years of construction delays to comply with wildlife regulations, while trying to beat a ticking clock in the form of a Sanibel ordinance which will effectively pull the plug on the project if it is not completed by the extended deadline of December 2009.

“It’s going to take more than two years just for the eagles,” explained Broeder at the meeting, adding that regulations require that the birds be observed through two nesting seasons.

Committee Member Dr. Philip Marks suggested that the board consider changing the ordinance to start the clock after all state or local permits had been granted.

“Some permits take well over year now,” he said.

Committee Member Paul Reynolds also had concerns about the revised draft ordinance, and the possibility of losing the ability to closely monitor such projects.

Planning Department Director Robert Duffy tried to allay the concerns of committee members, explaining that staff had tried its best to focus on what the real issue is at this point in time.

“It could be up to five years before a nest becomes inactive,” said Duffy, illustrating the developer’s current predicament. “We tried to focus on the lengthy and complicated environmental protection aspect of this.”

The committee unanimously approved the revised draft ordinance, which will be reviewed by the Planning Commission and presented for full public hearing at its Feb. 24 meeting.

LDC is amended

Also on Tuesday, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended the adoption of an amendment to the city’s Land Development Code which will better define standards, purposes, applicability and requirements for the issuance of temporary use permits. The amendment will also add special conditions for temporary uses that include plans for permanent structures.

If adopted by City Council, the new amendment will contain a clear definition of “temporary use,” and will clarify and consolidate existing standards in Section 82-222 of the Land Development Code to determine compliance with temporary use requirements by the Planning Commission.

While amending the statement of purpose and scope for temporary uses in Section 126-61, the draft ordinance also incorporates a new Applicability Section 126-63, which clearly defines four specific types of temporary use applications that could be considered for approval, such as occupancy of a dwelling unit or temporary structure as a construction office; occupancy of a temporary structure to conduct a permitted or conditional use interrupted by a natural disaster; storage of heavy equipment which provides a service to City residents and businesses; and use of a temporary structure for a permitted or conditional use when approved plans for a permanent structure are in the process of construction.

The approved draft ordinance will now be sent to City Council for review.

Planners already have a full agenda for its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 10 at 9 a.m. Among those items is the commencement of a public hearing to consider a development permit application to construct a single-family dwelling with an attached elevated swimming pool and deck. The applicant property is located at 3729 West Gulf Drive.

Also up for discussion is an application for a variance to the Land Development Code to allow boat docks to extend waterward a distance greater than 20 percent of the width of the canal. The same applicant has also applied for a development permit to dredge an area of 7,920 square feet (0.18 acre) of an existing man-made canal, including the removal of approximately 1,100 cubic yards of spoil material, the removal of approximately 1,256 square feet of mangrove, the replacement of a pedestrian foot bridge and the installation of seven single-family boat docks. The properties are located adjacent to Sanibel Estates at 350, 404, 420 and 424 East Gulf Drive; and at 433, 439 and 449 Lagoon Drive.