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Hundreds gather to celebrate COTI’s 35th anniversary

By Staff | Feb 8, 2010

Committee Of The Islands president Jim LaVelle, second from right, poses for a picture with party chair Jill Dillon, Marcy Calkins and Barbara Cooley.

More than 250 members and guests of the Committee Of The Islands gathered at BIG Arts last Thursday evening to celebrate the occasion of COTI’s 35th anniversary.

The celebration was held in the Phillips Gallery and garden areas at BIG Arts, where the guests enjoyed food, wine and music performed by The Island Jazz Group, as they mingled and heard remarks and presentations touching on COTI’s history and purpose.

To help commemorate the occasion, COTI’s Board of Directors honored Milena Eskew, COTI’s first Secretary of the Corporation and a member of its original Board. Eskew is also unique in that she was a signatory to the group’s Articles of Incorporation on July 21, 1975.

Seven past COTI presidents were also in attendance, as well as current president Jim LaVelle, all of whom were recognized and thanked for their efforts on behalf of the organization and the island community.

COTI was founded by Eskew and others who had helped incorporate Sanibel as an independently governed city within Lee County. Their efforts were in response to county development plans that envisioned Sanibel with a population of 90,000.

COTI past presidents attending the party included, back row from left, John Harries, Wayne Ponader, organization founder Milena Eskew, Mike Gillespie, incumbent Jim LaVelle, Dick Curtin and Armand Ball. Front row are Jack Thomas and Larry Schopp.

After succeeding in 1974 at the enormous task of establishing Sanibel’s independence, the founders organized COTI to help preserve the principles and protections they had worked hard to secure. Among these was the central goal of preserving Sanibel as a barrier island sanctuary community, where development was limited and where the residents lived in harmony with the island’s environment and wildlife.

Today, COTI’s mission still reflects the group’s purpose as set forth in its founding documents: To ensure a continuity of good local government; to help promote and maintain an enduring standard of living consistent with the environmental quality of the island; and to assure harmonious and integrated planning to preserve Sanibel’s unique and natural characteristics.

Recent COTI actions highlighted

Recent highlights of COTI’s efforts in pursuing this mission were cited at the event, including the following:

Wrote and sponsored the People’s Choice charter amendments, which require voter consent to any changes in the basic land use codes that protect against overdevelopment.

BIG Arts president Chuck Bonser, left, with Deborah and John LaGorce.

Helped passage of the City’s post-disaster build-back ordinance, ensuring that even non-conforming properties may be rebuilt after a disaster.

Supported and lobbied for the “Forever Green” charter amendment, requiring voter approval before the City can dispose of certain City lands.

Opposed development of a shopping and resort complex at Periwinkle Way and Bailey Road, after which the city acquired the land for Pond Apple Park.

Supported and lobbied for the “Dark Skies” ordinance, resulting in Sanibel’s progressive outdoor lighting code.

Actively supported the city’s efforts to minimize the adverse impact of fertilizers on the environment of Sanibel and across the state.

Milena Eskew was honored as COTI's founding board member.

Provided input and testimony to the recently adopted Shared Use Master Plan.

For additional information on COTI, visit www.coti.org or write to COTI, P.O. Box 88, Sanibel, FL 33957.