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Subcommittee discusses resort redevelopment work

By Staff | Apr 14, 2010

During their meeting on Tuesday morning, the Land Development Code subcommittee took the first step in the task of updating local legislation regarding redevelopment within the resort housing district in preparation of appropriate land use regulations, which will be passed along to City Council for their consideration.

According to Jimmy Jordan, director of the city’s Planning Department, there exists a strong concern with Sanibel’s short-term occupancy developments, including hotels, motels, cottages and condominiums.

“Because many of these developments are non-conforming, they are further restricted by various zoning regulations that prohibits such non-conforming uses and/or structures from ever being enlarged, expanded or intensified, particularly when the use is a use not permitted in the district in which it is located or where a structure is non-conforming due to permitted residential density, setbacks, flood elevation, impervious coverage, developed area or vegetation removal,” his staff report presented to the subcommittee reads in part.

The work plan presented to the Planning Commission, developed by the Planning Department after two months of discussions during City Council sessions focused on resort redevelopment, addresses the framework established by councilors to examine “key challenges associated with current land use regulations of the Land Development Code and provisions of the Sanibel Plan.”

Jordan stated that in order to preserve the current block of daily and weekly short-term occupancy units on this island, the commission’s study will focus exclusively on existing hotels and condominiums located within the resort housing district. The six parameters that will be examined are:

Density

Impervious Coverage, Developed Area and Vegetation Removal

* Height Limits

Setbacks

Green Technologies

Additional Development Regulations To Consider (i.e. Average Occupancy Rate Requirements, Recreational Open Space Requirements, Resort Housing Accessory Commercial Uses, etc.)

The subcommittee’s members received an eight-page staff report on Tuesday, along with a 35-page packet containing various memorandums collected by the council through their meetings discussing the matter. Also included in the packet was a proposed meeting schedule, where commissioners and councilors are expected to exchange information updating the progress of the legislation talks.

“I think that the City Council would like to maintain an open communication with this through bi-monthly reports, for as long as this process takes,” said Jordan.

Michael Valiquette, chairman of the subcommittee, opened the discussion on the matter by asking his fellow members for their input. Dr. Phillip Marks offered that he was encouraged by the details and background materials provided by staff and City Council.

“I think that we’re off to a really good start, between the council giving us guidance and your staff report,” Marks said to Jordan. “I think you’re right… some (resort properties) are going to have more options than others.”

“I think the criteria by which we may grant a variance has to be looked into,” fellow committee member Chris Heidrick noted after skimming through the materials. “I think that in the coming months we’re gonna have to discuss how these variances are going to be handled.”

Subcommitteeman Paul Reynolds, however, questioned the appropriateness of the study itself.

“Is it a function of our government that short-term housing is a good thing for Sanibel, or should we let the market decide that?” he asked. “It seems to me like we’re looking at a ‘blanket’ resolution… and I don’t think there is one.”

Check Ketteman added that he would like to receive input from the owners and residents of the affected properties, so that their opinions and suggestions could be incorporated in any legislation that the council might consider enacting.

“Their opinions are an important part of the process,” said Ketteman.

Reynolds agreed.

“My hope is that before we get too deep in this process that we talk with some of the stakeholders and find out what their issues are and what their needs might be,” he added.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Herb Rubin urged the subcommittee provide formal notification to all of the affected properties – as suggested by LDC member Holly Smith – while Sonja Smith, representing the Condominium Association of Sanibel Island (CASI), noted that she would encourage their 3,300 members to attend upcoming meetings and provide input.

Jordan suggested that the Planning Commission begin their discussions on the issues of Density and Impervious Coverage at their next session, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 27 starting at 9 a.m.