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Meeting of the minds proposed

By Staff | Dec 10, 2009

At Tuesday’s Planning Commission session, Mayor Mick Denham – acting as City Council liaison for the meeting – delivered the standard legislative update, keeping the commissioners current with ongoing Sanibel issues of concern.

During the mayor’s discussion with planners, the subject of the still-crawling-at-a-snail’s-pace proposed Land Development Code amendment (a.k.a. “86-43”) was mentioned. The suggested changes to the current code from the commission – establishing a trigger point at which all applications for single-family dwelling units which are greater than the largest existing home within a neighborhood would be subject to a long-form application and would be brought before the planners – are still being mulled by the council.

At this point, it remains unclear if the city’s five-man legislative team will accept the commission’s submitted changes, with or without additional alterations, send the proposal back to the planners for retooling, or reject their suggestions entirely.

After discussing, debating and deliberating a compromised version of 86-43 for nearly two years, it appears unlikely that the Planning Commission wants to get involved with more exhaustive meetings pondering the future of the Land Development Code again. But that may still happen.

Denham told commissioners that Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, who attended the previous planners session, suggested that a meeting between both the council and the commission may offer an opportunity for both bodies to assemble, talk about the altered 86-43 proposal and iron out some of the sticking points that have slowed its progress to this point.

We think that Ruane’s idea does have some merit, however, several local leaders appeared to immediately apply the brakes on that notion.

Commissioner Patty Sprankle, whose tenure will end in about three weeks, said that joint meetings in the past between the council and planners were a “total waste of time.” Denham added that both he and council member Marty Harrity were against the idea.

It could be a case of “Too many cooks spoil the soup,” with a dozen speakers squeezed around a table. At a very conservative suggestion of five minutes per speaker, such a meeting would last at least an hour. On the surface, that may not seem like a long time, but when you consider these city volunteers already give much of their “spare” time in dedication to Sanibel legislation, another hour may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

After a brief discussion, planner Dr. Phillip Marks suggested that perhaps a gathering between two members of the council and two members of the commission – who could meet every two weeks, updating each other on the progress of talks focused on 86-43 – might be a fair compromise. City Attorney Ken Cuyler pointed out that any meeting between the two parties would have to be advertised and open to the public, neither of which seemed prohibitive to making such sessions possible.

We consider Dr. Marks’ suggestion an excellent idea, and one that both the planners and councilors should embrace. As it has been said in this column before, the citizens of Sanibel deserve a resolve to this matter as soon as possible.

Alas, one can only hope that it could actually happen.

– Reporter editorial