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Council decides against altering 86-43

By Staff | Jan 6, 2010

Sanibel Police Officer Tony Williams, left, is presented the city's Life Saving Medal from Mayor Mick Denham on Tuesday. Williams saved the life of an island resident in November.

The issue of altering the language of the city’s Land Development Code Section 86-43, after more than two years of discussions, appears to be nearing a conclusion. However, it looks more and more like no changes will be made after all.

At Tuesday’s council session, during which a second reading and public hearing on a resolution to alter Section 86-43 was held, local leaders again debated whether or not to establish a trigger point to determine whether an applicant wishing to construct a single-family dwelling unit would use a short-form or long-form application.

Under terms of the proposed code change, which had been approved by planners in August, applicants whose new or renovated unit is equal to or less than the size of the largest home within a neighborhood would apply to the city’s Planning Department via a short-form application. Those whose units exceeded the size of the largest home would require a long-form application, and would be brought before the commission.

“To establish a ‘neighborhood floor area threshold’ as a review process determinant, but not as a limit on the size of a single family or duplex dwelling unit,” the proposed policy read, in part. “The ‘neighborhood floor area threshold’ is to be used to require all applications for single family and duplex dwelling units that exceed the total habitable square foot area of the largest home within an established neighborhood be processed and reviewed as long-form development permit applications by the Planning Commission.”

On Tuesday, the council brought the adjusted code back for discussion – for the fifth time since commissioners approved the proposal – after requesting last month that the city’s Planning Department add a statement of purpose to the policy as well as gather both city and county data identifying “habitable living space.” Department director Jimmy Jordan confirmed that he and his staff had completed that task.

“I think that it’s fair to say that based upon the work done by the Planning Commission, you’ve got some good guidelines to work with,” said councilman Marty Harrity. “The issue may be ‘Is this the best way to do this… or is there a better way?'”

Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, who noted that he was in favor of establishing architectural guidelines, did not agree with the policies’ notion of using the largest home within a neighborhood as a trigger point.

“I’m all for simplification and efficiency with your staff, but I really struggle with passing this ordinance and having a 4,200-square-foot home being considered a ‘McMansion.'”

Fellow councilor Jim Jennings offered that the policy establish a minimum home size – “whether that’s 2,800 square feet or 3,000” – that could be built anywhere on Sanibel, no matter which neighborhood it may be in.

“This is the most compromised and the most compromising issue that has been brought before us in my 35 years on the island,” said councilman Peter Pappas. “Someone has to show some good faith here. And if we need more time, how much time?”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several residents addressed the much-debated topic.

“I gather that at this point, you’re at an impasse,” said Jim Lavelle, representing the Committee Of The Islands. “I would just encourage you as a council to seek a compromise. This effort has gone on for two years and I think it’s about time to settle this.”

Other speakers petitioned that the city’s notification process be updated and expanded to include additional residents within the affected neighborhoods.

After some additional debate, Pappas said, “I like the ordinance we’ve got. I’ve always liked the ordinance we’ve got … it’s eight words long. It’s one sentence.”

Ruane made a motion, which was seconded by Harrity, to keep Section 86-43 as written but widen the scope of the notification process. He suggested that any exterior renovation or modification project valued at more than $50,000 be subject to notifying surrounding residences within 300 feet.

The motion passed 4-1, with Denham casting the lone dissenting vote. However, the dollar figure to be attached to the resolution will be scrutinized by the Planning Department and brought back to council at a future date.

Also on Tuesday, councilors voted to fill the three empty seats on the Planning Commission.

“The level of these applicants are exceptional,” said Jennings. “The city will be in good hands with these volunteers.”

Michael Valiquette, who most recently served as chairman of the Planning Commission, was reappointed to a three-year term, which will expire on Jan. 7, 2013.

Valiquette’s name appeared on the ballots of Denham, Ruane, Jennings and Harrity. However, Pappas submitted a blank ballot.

“Peter, why don’t you just fill the sheet in?” asked an agitated Denham.

Pappas indicated that he would rather submit his votes verbally. He then cast his votes for Charles Heidrick, Chuck Ketteman and Karen Storjohann.

During the second round of balloting, in which Pappas did participate in the paper vote, Heidrick received four votes and was appointed to the second three-year term.

A final round of balloting selected Ketteman over incumbent Les Forney, 3-2. Ketteman will complete the final year remaining on Patty Sprankle’s term. Sprankle resigned from the commission effective Dec. 31, 2009. That seat will expire in 2011.

“I’d like to thank Les Forney for his service to the Planning Commission,” said Denham as Forney exited MacKenzie Hall to a warm ovation. “You did a great job.”

In other business, Sanibel Police Officer Tony Williams was presented the city’s Life Saving Medal in recognition of his heroic efforts in saving the life of a local citizen last year.

On Nov. 27, 2009, Williams was dispatched to the Dixie Beach Boulevard and Center Street area where a non-responsive male was lying on the shared use path. Williams immediately began the life-saving process by administering electrical shock using the AED equipment installed in all police department cruisers. He continued to administer first aid, with the assistance of two members of the public, until the EMT’s and EMS arrived.

Denham noted that for the fifth time since the installation of the AED equipment, the Sanibel Police Department has used the apparatus to help save a life.

Williams was hired by the city as a Police Aide in December 2003. He has been a Police Officer since May 2005. Officer Williams received his Associate’s Degree from Edison State College and will pursue his Bachelor’s Degree at Gulf Coast University beginning next semester.