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Panel discusses estate zoning during workshop

By Staff | Jan 14, 2010

The Captiva Community Panel held a workshop session last Thursday to discuss sections of the land development code pertaining to estate zoning and height restrictions.

While both topics were explored at previous workshops, the issue of estate zoning garnered a much longer discussion during this session.

“This is our third workshop. We’ve tried to take it one piece at a time with the things that we think need to be adjusted,” panel member Mike Kelly said.

The first piece that was discussed was RSC-2 estate zoning.

Dave Depew and Max Forgey of Morris-Depew Associates, Inc. attended the meeting to field questions and concerns and present possible solutions for the code.

Kelly explained that the old zoning planning issue had a situation where a property owner in an RSC-2 zoning area could have three potential buildings in an estate zone lot – a principal residence, an accessory residence and a servants’ residence.

“The fact is there are only maybe three or four properties that have three buildings in an estate zone lot on the island. We’ve had some conversations on the renting of those types of units and the feeling I had in talking to folks at the panel meetings is that we’re focusing on the fact that most of the estate zones have two buildings and there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to permit rentals of one of those two units. That’s the way we’re looking at our drafting. It doesn’t make any difference if you want to rent your principal unit or the accessory unit. You can rent one or the other,” Kelly said at the beginning of the session.

“I don’t think we’re interested in having two rental units and a principal unit. I think the feeling was that we ought to only have one rental unit on an estate zone property. That’s the direction we’re going, but we’re certainly willing to listen to whatever comments people might have,” Kelly said.

Captiva resident Ken Suarez voiced a concern over what he thought might discourage renting and therefore decrease property values.

“I don’t think we should allow people to rent their homes to two different people, but I think once we start tackling some of the rental issues we’re facing, I strongly believe it pulls our values down. Sanibel is a perfect example of that. Lifetime properties on West Gulf Drive are 30 percent off than what they are on the Gold Coast. As a younger person and a real estate investor myself, when I go to buy a property, the first thing I check into is the ability to rent. That’s what the younger people are looking for – the ability to buy a property and use it as an investment,” Suarez said.

Some participants at the workshop expressed that they thought neighboring rental properties decreased the values of their own homes.

Others were concerned that owners might not follow the rules and turn their rentals into a hotel situation instead of renting the buildings on their property to only one family at a time.

“If you defined it as renting during the same period of time to a single lessee – if these people had known each other in college ahead of time, who cares, it’s as if it’s one family – but the issue you don’t want is the hotel/motel situation where completely disparate people are individually renting each building separately,” said Mike Mullins, a Captiva resident.

Forgey tried to make sense of all the different issues that were brought up throughout the first half of the meeting by offering up a hypothetical scenario.

“We’ve been working on more advanced language. But, suppose you had that relatively rare case where you had a principal residence and two accessory residences. I think I’m hearing that there is not a major concern about the Jones renting all three units for a period of time, for a wedding, let’s say, as long as it’s the Jones and not the Jones in one house and the Browns in the other. So it’s one, not family, but one lessee, one responsible person who is basically responsible for everyone’s conduct there,” Forgey said.

Kelly agreed and said he’d like to see this idea put into language for further discussion.

“My general impression is that you’re trying to enhance the value of this real estate by preserving its character as a single family estate area, while also providing an option for some degree of an offset of the expenses associated with preserving that single family character by allowing in certain instances under defined constraints the ability to rent out some or all of the property depending on what the language ultimately looks like. The idea here is to preserve the character of Captiva and that’s the philosophy that you’re trying to articulate,” Depew said.

After all of the discussion about estate zoning was over, Kelly asked Depew and Forgey to draft new language based on all the questions and concerns brought up throughout the meeting.

“Let us do the drafting. I think we’ve got a feeling for it. We’ll offer it up and we’ll see if it makes sense to folks,” Kelly said.

The meeting continued with a discussion about height restriction, during which many concerns from previous sessions resurfaced.

After another lengthy debate among residents, no definitive decisions were made, but Forgey offered to restructure some of the options he had presented based on residents’ concerns.

During the regular meeting of the panel on Tuesday, Jan. 12, Forgey updated the panel on the issues discussed during the workshop session.

“What Dave and I heard you say was you want to allow one lessee for the property at a time but continue to allow rental arrangements for caretakers. When we come back on February ninth with a new draft, it will reflect that,” Forgey said.

In terms of height restrictions, Forgey told the panel, the consensus among those attending the workshop seemed to want to facilitate two stories with two liveable floors, that sloped roofs should be accommodated and encouraged and some reasonable roofline articulation is appropriate.

“After the workshop, we went back to the office and got together our associates who work on GIS and graphics and they are going to create a graphic for you that shows zoning overlaid with the FIRM map and the topo maps. What we’re looking for is trying to avoid situations in which one house’s rooftop stands far above their neighbor’s rooftop and we are looking at ways to tailor those building height needs to individual zoning districts,” Forgey said.

There will be another workshop session on Thursday, Jan. 28 at South Seas Island Resort to explore sinage language and to further discuss height restrictions.