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Planners approve increased density plan, pending paving

By Staff | Feb 25, 2009

During their regular meeting on Tuesday, members of the Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use application for increased-density of a 14-until below market rate housing (BMRH) development on Centre Street.

Their approval, however, includes an amendment pending a request of City Council to have the road paved. Centre Street is presently a crushed shell composite surface from it’s eastern end – where the Court Place Workforce Housing project has been proposed – through Dixie Beach Road.

During discussion of the plan, which proposes the construction of four three-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units within the seven building development, members of the commission asked Scott Marcelais, Director of Community Housing and Resources for Coast and Islands Community Land Trust, Inc. (CHR) about the benefits to the city this BMRH project would bring.

“We want people who are living here and working here to know that they’re buying Sanibel, not just four walls,” said Marcelais.

According to Sanibel Community Housing & Resources, Inc., the BMRH program started by the City of Sanibel in 1983 provides affordable housing for persons of limited means who work on the island but can’t afford to live there, and for longtime residents who can no longer afford current housing costs.

“Priority is given to those persons who live or work on Sanibel,” their Web site states. “Sanibel’s BMRH program is both unique and special – so much so it is generally considered a model of affordable housing success.”

Commissioner Tom Krekel asked what the city’s present BMRH goals were. At present, Sanibel has approved the development of 170 units. Krekel also questioned how many applicants were on the waiting list for BMRH housing. Fellow commissioner Dr. Phillip Marks responded that of the 65 applicants currently enlisted in the program, four have expressed an interest in the Court Place development. However, he said that he has spoken with several island teachers and police personnel who may also be interested in applying for the city’s BMRH program.

Commissioner Holly Smith, after looking at artist renderings of the development, asked if any of the structures were ADA compliant. The proposed structures are not equipped with ramps, but according to Marcelais any of the buildings can be adjusted for compliance. He also noted that CHR is in excess of the state-mandated five percent ADA-compliance of all BMRH units.

Main Street resident Lynn Russell asked planners what impact the proposed development might have on local traffic patterns.

“There’s a lot more in play her than just the traffic during the day,” she said. “Even two cars going down this dirt road – one in one direction and the other in another – they have to drive off to the side of the road, which is already full of potholes.”

Director of Planning Robert Duffy said that, during his discussions with the Department of Public Works, there was no talk of paving Centre Street.

“Will there be increased traffic? Yes, there will be,” said Duffy. “Will there be a significant impact created here? I don’t believe so.”

Commissioner Patty Sprankle asked if the city would consider paving a road and, if so, what process would it take. Duffy responded by saying that a petition signed by 80 percent of affected citizens and business owners could be submitted to the City Council for consideration.

Fellow commissioner Les Forney stated that, in his opinion, the vast majority of traffic on Centre Street isn’t from local residents, but from commercial vehicles.

“The benefit of paving this road isn’t just for the residents, it’s for the city,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to maintain that road and it’s the city’s responsibility to fix it. This shouldn’t be put on the residents.”

Forney then asked whether or not the commissioner’s approval of the conditional use application could be made contingent upon the city paving Centre Street from end-to-end. City Attorney Ken Cuyler responded that it could be done, separate from CHR’s applications for increased-density on the 2.37-acre parcel, which presently allows one unit.

Planning chairman Michael Valiquette made a motion to approve the application, including the amendment requesting the city pave Centre Street, which received a second from Smith. The commission voted 6-0 in favor of the motion, with Marks recused from voting due to his involvement with CHR.

The application will be brought back for final approval on March 10.