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Delay may be a good thing

By Staff | Nov 19, 2009

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel just got a little longer.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, local leaders approved a request to continue discussions on proposed Ordinance 09-11, amending Sanibel Land Code Section 86-43, by some five weeks.

Previously, councilors had scheduled the second public hearing on the much-debated topic – whether or not to establish a trigger point of the largest single-family structure within a neighborhood as a means of determining long-form or short-form applications through the city’s Planning Department – at their next session, Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 9:15 a.m.

The controversial element of the document establishes a size threshold for both new and renovated houses. Under terms of the suggested 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. That adds both time and financial considerations to the process.

Back in October, the council requested that planning staff obtain the total habitable (living) floor area of the largest home within each of the established neighborhoods (86) identified on the Ordinance 09-11 companion map. According to Director of Planning Jimmy Jordan, his staff has contacted the Lee County Property Appriaser’s GIS Department and solicited their assistance in isolating the total habitable floor area of the largest neighborhood home by removing all weighted floor level data, which does not represent actual living area or meet the definition of total habitable space as defined in the proposed policy.

“To ensure that the largest house data for each neighborhood is consistent with the definition of total habitable floor area, the Planning Department recommends that the City Council continue the consideration of Ordinance 09-11 to Jan. 5, 2010,” a memo from Jordan to the council and City Manager Judie Zimomra – dated Nov. 12 – reads in part. “The additional time will allow for the collection of the data by staff.”

Following more than two years of discussions and debate, pondering and pontificating, it appears that any decision on the controversial Section 86-43 policy has been delayed once more. But this time, we think that’s a good thing.

As much as Sanibelians want to see this issue put to rest, be they in favor of establishing a trigger point or not, we think that all interested parties agree that allowing city staff a few more weeks to sift through some complex and complicated policy language is the right thing to do.

However, we should also caution the city: Islanders deserve to see this issue finally put the rest sometime in early 2010. A new year should bring with it the end of this drawn-out drama.

– Reporter editorial