Council may explore waiving park rental fee
During their Aug. 18 meeting, several members of the city council weighed in on the possibility of establishing “grandfather” rules for a number of city-based organizations who have requested a waiver of Sanibel’s Community Park rental fee for special events.
That debate spilled over to Saturday’s special session, which followed a 90-minute discussion of the 2009-10 city budget.
Last month, the three attending councilors – Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, Marty Harrity and Jim Jennings – unanimously approved waiving the Special Event Community Park fee rental of $475 for the Children’s Education Center of the Islands. Mayor Mick Denham and councilman Peter Pappas were absent from the meeting.
At the time, Harrity engaged in a brief discussion about potentially “grandfathering” the school’s status for future park rentals. With only three members of the council present, the group collectively decided upon waiving the fee on a year-by-year basis.
On Saturday, Harrity again raised the issue.
“It’s kind of an issue,” he said. “Either we have fees or we don’t have fees.”
“I think if we do it for one, we have to do it for all,” Denham added. “So I’m in your camp.”
In the past, island groups and organizations have periodically made requests for a fee waiver, based upon the type of event they had conducted or due in times of financial crisis. Council members have voted either to accept or reject those requests on a case-by-case basis. Most of the cases which have been approved in previous years are events held by island schools or not-for-profit groups.
City Manager Judie Zimomra said that her staff will take a closer look at the policy and bring the item back for further discussion at their Oct. 6 session.
“We have some policies that contradict each other,” said Ruane. “In one breath, we take this path, but when it comes to children, we take a different path.”
In other business, the council heard a request from Robert Parks, who proposed establishing an outdoor seating area at his Twilight Cafe. Because the restaurant is located in a non-conforming business zone – in his case, along West Gulf Drive – it would require an amendment to the city’s Code of Ordinances before it would be heard by the Planning Commission.
According to Parks, he would like to add a 16-seat al fresco dining area along the north side of Twilight Cafe. He told the council he is also considering reconfiguring the parking lot in order to provide additional on-site parking while shielding the exterior dining area from the view of passing motorists.
“I’d rather have people looking at bushes instead of outdoor seating,” Parks said.
Denham hoped that the city could establish a standard of appearances as they relate to outdoor seating at Sanibel restaurants, noting that he didn’t want to see eyesores such as “plastic chairs and tacky umbrellas.”
Jimmy Jordan, the city’s Director of Planning, said that his department would work with Parks and look towards preparing an ordinance amendment in time for the Planning Commission’s next meeting, on Sept. 22.
Zimomra also informed the council that Tuesday, Nov. 3 has been established as the city’s official 35th Anniversary Celebration. Event details, other than the 9 a.m. start time, will be revealed at a future date.