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Council passes 86-43, begins resort housing talks

By Staff | Feb 3, 2010

Members of the Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva met with Mayor Mick Denham, right, during Tuesday's City Council meeting. They were there to present a check for $5,200 to the city for the After School and Summer Recreation programs. Pictured from left are Nola Theiss, Barbara Joy Cooley, Sue Denham, Karen Storjohann and Carolyn Grey.

While Sanibel finally closed the book dealing with the long-debated Land Development Code Section 86-43, the start of discussions related to redevelopment in the resort housing sector began a new chapter in city standards and practices.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 3-2 in favor of amending the LDC regulations for the appearance of structures, size and mass of structures and notification procedures for single family and duplex dwelling units.

The ordinance, which was rejected by Mayor Mick Denham and councilman Peter Pappas, also broadens the definition of neighborhood as defined in an accompanying resolution – which identified each individual neighborhood subdivision on Sanibel – but lacked two elements originally included by the city’s Planning Commission:

A trigger point of the largest existing home within a neighborhood, which would be used to determine if an applicant seeking to build a new single family or duplex residence, or modify an existing structure, would need to complete a short form or long form application.

Guidelines which offered detailed direction of the altered application review procedures and requirements, along with a “Purpose & Intent” clause.

The resolution defining the island’s neighborhoods also passed 4-1, with Pappas dissenting.

According to City Attorney Ken Cuyler, LDC Section 86-43 went through one final revision following the council’s Jan. 19 session, including revising the ordinance title and whereas clauses, notification requirements and neighborhood definitions.

After Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane made a motion to approve the document, which was seconded by Marty Harrity, the council opened the floor for public comment.

“I think that you’re making a mistake by passing this ordinance as proposed and changed,” said Jim LaVelle, representing the Committee Of The Islands. “There’s no provision to have a hearing before the Planning Commission and we think that this is a mistake.”

Under terms of the proposed ordinance the Planning Commission moved forward to the City Council, applications to construct or modify a structure bigger than the largest existing home within a neighborhood would have required a long-form process, which requires the commission to review the application.

Resident Herb Rubin agreed that the notification process outlined in the updated document, to include the leaders of individual homeowner associations as well as neighboring properties within 300 yards, but suggested that the HOA contacts be updated more frequently.

“There should be some mechanism to maintain the integrity of a neighborhood. I don’t think that’s happening,” added Gloria Hannon. “I think more is needed to help a neighborhood keep its integrity.”

Following a brief recess, Denham opened a discussion of issued related to the city’s LDC regulations affecting redevelopment within Sanibel’s resort housing sector. In recent weeks, both the City Council and Planning Commission agreed that following work on Section 86-43, the topic would be the island’s most important issue in 2010.

“This is too complicated a document for us to deal with today,” said Denham, who suggested that councilors continue deliberations on the matter over the next two or three meetings before they pass along the task to the commission.

“I think the idea of coming back to this in a few weeks will give us some time to work on this,” councilman Jim Jennings stated.

Planning Director Jimmy Jordan prepared a six-page memorandum to open discussions on resort housing redevelopment, including general objectives needed to guide the drafting of land use regulations so that “modernization of existing non-conforming properties can occur within the framework of The Sanibel Plan.”

“I think we have to be cautious to put the concepts ahead of the specifics,” said Pappas. “What we have in front of us are concepts.”

“There’s a balance here that certainly we’re going to need to have,” added Ruane. “We need to be fair to people.”

Among the other questions posed in Jordan’s memorandum:

Since non-conforming developments can build-back if substantially damaged by a natural disaster, should these developments – at the time of build-back – be allowed to “improve” their site plans and retain their pre-disaster use and number of dwelling units?

Should the city’s land development regulations require existing hotels, motels and resort complexes to redevelop with the same use, if these properties are permitted to redevelop in excess of the density allowed by the Development Intensity Map, up to the number of units currently existing?

Should the scope of the Resort Sector Redevelopment Study focus exclusively on the Resort Housing District?

Should the height limit of 45 feet be increased to adjust for the increase in the Base Flood Elevation, pursuant to the 2008 amendment to the Flood Insurance Rate Map?

Should street, side property lines and other setbacks be reduced in the Resort Housing District?

“From a commercial standpoint, you kinda have to ask ‘Who’s your customer?'” asked Marty Harrity. “I think the key is ‘Who are we? What is Sanibel?’ I think we’re going to have to be flexible.”

Pappas added, “What are people in the resort community looking for? They’re looking for options.”

The council agreed to continue their discussion on the subject at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16 starting at 9 a.m.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a resolution opposing offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, within the current 10-mile limits. The resolution also opposed any future legislation which would allow near-shore drilling between three and nine miles off the coast of Florida.