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Council approves purchase of lighthouse

By Staff | Feb 18, 2010

After waiting more than five and a half years, the City of Sanibel has finally been given the opportunity to purchase the most recognizable landmark on the island.

And without hesitation, local leaders immediately opened up their wallets and bought the Sanibel Lighthouse – and the surrounding 44.7 acres of property – from the United States Department of the Interior for $10 per acre, or a total cost of $447.70.

“I’m hoping to see some good things from the lighthouse,” councilman Jim Jennings said after the resolution to purchase the landmark was unanimously approved. “I think there are some good ideas in use around the country with other lighthouses.”

On Feb. 5, the city received a letter from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which stated that the land on which the lighthouse sits has been classified suitable for use under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act of 1926.

“The Sanibel Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” the letter states. “All future rehabilitation of buildings and/or structures on the site must be carried out in a manner that is compatible with their historic and architectural qualities and consistent with the recommended approaches for rehabilitation set forth in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines.”

Among the conditions of approval for the sale, which must be completed within 30 days of the official notice, is requiring a licensed archaeologist to be present during any an all ground-disturbing activities and requiring revenue generated through usage fees or lease of the facility to be utilized in the management and maintenance of the properties.

According to City Manager Judie Zimomra, the city will now be able to apply for historical preservation grants to assist in the funding of repainting the Sanibel Lighthouse. The city is also working on developing a long-term master plan for the property and cottages at the site.

In other business, councilors continued their discussions of issued related to land development regulations which may affect redevelopment in the resort housing sector, which is expected to be handed over to the city’s Planning Commission in the coming weeks.

“We’re not going to go into grand detail about this,” said Mayor Mick Denham. “I think we’d prefer to leave that to the Planning Commission to handle. I think what we are doing is painting a broad brushstroke of the issues.”

The six primary issues brought up for debate included density, short-term occupancy, lot coverage of impermeable areas, setbacks, height limits and coastal construction.

Denham suggested that the city maintain the existing density for all hotels, motels, condominiums and resort properties, as long as the structures remained within their current 3-D footprint. Fellow councilor Peter Pappas offered that extending “grandfathered” policies to the owners of those properties might encourage investors to keep their short-term stay units the same.

“I think we’re all in agreement that we don’t want to see any density increases,” added Marty Harrity.

One topic that will likely become an issue is maintaining the city’s height restrictions for commercial properties. Since the release of the new Flood Insurance Maps in 2008, some properties – especially three- and four-floor structures – may require a variance to exceed the current 45-foot restriction.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several members of the audience offered their suggestions on resort housing redevelopment. Resident Herb Rubin noted that the presence of swimming pools on a property may affect density but added, “I think this is a wonderful way to start.”

Planning Commissioner Holly Smith also reiterated her request for a map indicating all properties affected by the upcoming discussions, and submitted an additional request for clarification on “redevelopment vs. modernization.”

Lee Olsen, a Pointe Santo resident for the past 35 years, offered that the council should “think as broadly as you can.”

“I appreciate your point of view,” he added. “And I think you’re right on the money.”

Planning Department Director Jimmy Jordan told the council that his staff will consider the suggestions posed by the council and prepare a report in time for their next session, on Tuesday, March 2.

The council also unanimously approved the re-allocation of $65,000 from the city’s Shared Use Path maintenance budget in order to extend Sanibel’s bike path to Captiva, the final step in connecting the pathway between the adjoining islands.

An estimated $80,000 is required to complete the work, which will extend the path along Sanibel Captiva Road between Pine Avenue and the bridge at Blind Pass. The Sanibel Bicycle Club has agreed to pay the remaining $15,000 portion through its Trails In Motion fund.

On Jan. 28, Sanibel’s Parks and Recreation Committee approved staff recommendations to move forward with the path extension due to safety concerns for people who use the roadway to travel from one island to the other.