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Council mulls 86-43 changes, fishing pier plans

By Staff | Aug 19, 2009

With only three of their five members present, Tuesday’s City Council meeting produced little activity of note, with only modest discussions regarding the Planning Commission’s proposed alterations to Land Development Code Section 86-43 and Lee County’s plan to add a fishing pier along the Sanibel Causeway.

Resident Claudia Burns brought up the subject of the fishing pier, which – according to a Lee County Department of Transportation report released last month – would add a 343-foot recreational fishing facility along the causeway.

The structure would be comprised of a precast concrete slabs with six shaded awnings on top of former roadway pilings adjacent to Island B. Cost estimates for the project range from $1.2 to $1.5 million.

Burns petitioned the council to fight against the addition of a fishing pier along the causeway, noting that the structure would discourage people from using Sanibel’s own fishing facility and cause a reduction in revenues generated by paid parking lots.

“It’s (the DOT’s) attempt at sabotaging Sanibel’s parking fees,” she said.

In February, Lee County Commissioner and island resident Bob Janes told the Island Reporter that the idea to install a fishing pier along the causeway – which had been rumored for several years – had apparently been put to rest.

“Right now, I think we’ve put that on the backburner,” Janes said. “We just ran out of money (for new projects this year).”

Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, steering the council session in Mayor Mick Denham’s absence, vowed to fight against the project as both a member of the City Council and Lee County’s Tourism Development Council.

“All I can tell you is that this won’t be ignored,” Ruane said. “I don’t know if it can be turned around, but I will tell you that we’ll be watching it.”

The abbreviated council – with Denham and fellow councilman Peter Pappas absent – voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the city’s much-debated Land Development Code, which revises procedures and standards for single family and duplex dwelling units.

Last week, the Planning Commission approved changes to Section 86-43 by a 5-1 vote.

The most debated change in the document establishes a size threshold for both new and renovated houses. Under terms of this change, applicants whose new or renovated unit is equal to or less than the size of the largest home within a neighborhood may apply to the city’s Planning Department via a short-form application. Those who exceed the size of the largest home would require a long-form application, and would be brought before the commission.

During the public hearing on the issue, Burns said, “My impression is that this change will assist the Planning Department to counsel prospective applicants in a more effective manner. It’s a very good piece of legislation.”

Fellow resident Alan Silverman also supported the proposed changes to the ordinance.

Jimmy Jordan, Director of Planning, told the council that he commended the Planning Commission for their “hard work and perseverance” in coming up with a workable solution to problems in the current code.

“It will not only assist the Planning Department, but it will also assist the applicants,” he said.

Prior to their vote, councilman Marty Harrity said, “I do have some questions, but I am going to hold my comments (until the next meeting).” The full council is expected to be in attendance at the dual City Council and budget hearing, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5 at 9 a.m.

“I was somewhat surprised by the way the discussions went,” added Ruane, who was in attendance during the last Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 11. “But again, I’m going to hold my comments.”

In other business, the council approved a donation from the Sanibel Historical Museum and Museum in the amount of $6,915 for the purchase of lumber for new walkways and window closures at the facility’s restroom area.

Also, they unanimously approved waiving the Special Event Community Park fee rental of $475 for the Children’s Education Center of the Islands. There was a brief discussion about potentially “grandfathering” the school’s status for future park rentals, but instead they chose to waive the fee on a year-by-year basis.