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Split council sends code back for more revisions

By Staff | Jan 20, 2010

After a brief debate over whether to return language that would impose a trigger point for the construction of or additions to single-family or duplex dwelling units, the City Council ultimately decided against further amendments to the Land Development Code Section 86-43.

However, they did vote 3-2 in favor of having the city’s Planning Department make additional changes to the ordinance, a move opposed by Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham and Peter Pappas.

“There is nothing wrong with opposing an 86-43 that’s not on the books,” Pappas said during Tuesday’s meeting. “For me, I cannot support this ordinance as it appears now.”

Since their last meeting, the Planning Department and City Attorney Ken Cuyler made several alterations to the controversial code, at the request of the council. The most significant changes to the ordinance was the removal of establishing a trigger point – the largest home within each established neighborhood, as suggested by the Planning Commission – for long-form applications and the broadening of the notification process for surrounding residents.

“What I heard from the Planning Commission’s audience (at the Jan. 12 meeting) was better notification, and what we have in front of us today is an ordinance without a trigger point,” said Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane. “If we have a trigger point mechanism, I think we’ll have more of a handcuff situation.”

Fellow council Marty Harrity asked Cuyler about whether the guidelines included in the proposed ordinance could be removed, as they were intended only for internal use by the Planning Department. Cuyler said that the council could pass the ordinance, with the condition that the guidelines would be removed.

Denham asked Jimmy Jordan, director of the Planning Department, whether the proposed ordinance would strengthen the code.

“This does give you more notification, but in my opinion it does not strengthen or weaken 86-43,” Jordan responded.

Denham then asked Jordan if the code was strong, even without establishing a trigger point.

“I think this is a weaker ordinance without that trigger mechanism,” said Jordan.

During public comment on the issue, Sanibel resident Larry Schopp told the council he felt they would be “hoodwinking” island citizens if they did not allow the Planning Commission additional discussions on the code. He also called the proposed ordinance “defective.”

“I think it’s sad that the council did not accept the Planning Commission’s recommendations,” added resident Herb Rubin, who also noted that definition of established neighborhoods on Sanibel was “critical.”

Harrity made the motion to send the ordinance back to city staff for additional adjustments, which was seconded by councilman Jim Jennings.

“It’s been a long process, but I always prefer to have the final document in front of you,” added Cuyler, who said the revisions will be reviewed at the next meeting of the council on Tuesday, Feb. 2 starting at 9:15 a.m.

In other business, the subject of whether the City of Sanibel should take an official position on proposed offshore oil drilling in Florida waters came up for discussion.

Denham took the opportunity to dispute the rumors he said had been circulated via e-mail that morning, which claimed that he was in favor of allowing offshore exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Contrary to popular belief, I have not taken a position in support of offshore oil drilling off the State of Florida,” he said.

Denham also noted that the issue would be part of the agenda at the Regional Planning Council in Fort Myers on Thursday, Jan. 28 and urged his fellow council members to attend that meeting before rending their decision on the matter.

“I think that this community needs to come out and say that we will not support offshore oil drilling,” countered Jennings. “We need to do that, because why would this community do anything less?”

Harrity added, “I’m with Jim on this one, and I will not change my point of view.”

“I’ve been pursueded thusfar, based upon the information I’ve read and the information I’ve seen, that (offshore drilling) would be a detriment to our island,” said Ruane.

Jennings made a motion for city staff to draft a resolution opposing offshore oil drilling. That resolution will be discussed during the council’s Feb. 2 session.

Dr. Rob Loflin, director of the city’s Department of Natural Resources, warned the council that allowing offshore drilling within the current 10-mile boundary – which could mean as close as three miles off the coast – could result in disastrous effects on Southwest Florida.

“No question it would have an impact on our beaches,” said Loflin. “Purely from an environmental standpoint, it would be very dangerous to allow this.”