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Sanibel Causeway food vendor remains open

By Staff | Mar 25, 2009

The Lee County Commission decided Tuesday to allow a food vendor to continue operating on the Sanibel Causeway for one year, with the option to renew the contract after it expires.
The vendor has been operating for four months on the causeway, having signed the one-year deal with Lee County Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Barbara Manzo has the authority to authorize vendor contracts for up to one year without the consent of commissioners.
The vendor’s presence has reportedly drawn the ire of someone, though the party remains anonymous.
Bill Hammond of county administration told commissioners that he received a phone call from the city of Sanibel. He said the city is “unhappy” with the current situation.
Manzo echoed Hammond’s comment, adding that the issue came before the board for executive direction.
“It came before the board because (county) administration was concerned about the complaints that came from Sanibel, and Commissioner (Bob) Janes had some questions,” she said. “We wanted to ask commissioners if they had any particular direction.”
Sanibel City Manager Judy Zimomra said the city takes no position on the matter, and declined comment.
Janes said he approves of the vendor’s presence on the causeway as long as there is a “sunset provision” that does not allow the vendor to operate indefinitely.
“This would give us a period of time to see if this works … I’m willing to give it a shot,” he said.
Chairman Ray Judah expressed concern that the vendor would open up the causeway to an untold numbers of individuals selling wares, going as far as calling the causeway a potential Coney Island.
Manzo said other vendors have shown up on the causeway islands in the wake of the original vendor’s arrival, but they have been told to leave. She added that people have always sold items on the causeway.
“It doesn’t mean people weren’t setting up shop before, it just means that now one has a contract to do so,” Manzo said.
A fishing pier is scheduled to be built on the causeway, which is under the supervision of Lee County. There is no definite time frame for the project, which is now in the design phase.
The fishing pier also has encountered opposition from the city of Sanibel and officials from the island chamber of commerce.
The causeway vendor has eight months left on the contract. Once the contract runs out, a process of vendor bids may open up.
Judah cited an ancient Arab proverb when summing up his feelings on the vendor.
“I think this will allow the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent,” he said.
The item passed 4-1, with Judah dissenting.