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Planners push boat dock discussion to next meeting

By Staff | Jul 14, 2010

Although the Planning Commission began talking about the possibility of lifting the ban on boat docks located within the Bay Beach Zone for nearly two months, discussions on the subject were put off once again until their next scheduled session.

The commission originally planned to conduct a public hearing on the matter during Tuesday’s meeting. However, the item was removed from the agenda, according to City Attorney Ken Cuyler, because there were issues related to the matter still "under discussion."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Caludia Burns asked Cuyler whether the City Council would be discussion the subject of lifting the current boat dock prohibition at their July 22 gathering.

"That hasn’t been determined yet," said Cuyler.

In May, the City Council had directed the Planning Commission to discuss and propose new legislation regarding boat docks within the Bay Beach Zone, which extends along the waters of San Carlos Bay and Tarpon Bay west of the Lighthouse to the end of Woodring’s Point. In 1993, city leaders enacted the ban as a means of protecting and preserving environmentally-sensitive sea grasses growing in those waters.

According to Cuyler, the idea of lifting the city’s ban has come about due to the potential for litigation. He explained that owners of property with an access to navigable waterways have a legal right to access those waters, with a boat or other personal watercraft.

Planners are prepared to discuss the ordinance at their next meeting, scheduled for July 27. Commissioner Tom Krekel asked if a representative from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) could attend the session, while Dr. Phillip Marks requested a member of the city’s Natural Resources Department be on hand to answer any questions the panel or members of the public might ask at that meeting.

In other business, the Land Development Code Review Subcommittee continued their work on making alterations to the city’s regulations for redevelopment within the Resort Housing District. The group put the finishing touches on legislation for Recreational Open Space while starting talks focused on Vested Rights.

Jimmy Jordan, the city’s Director of Planning, explained to the subcommittee that any land use regulation needs to recognize the vested rights of the properties subject to the regulation. City codes attempt to find a balance between property rights and environmental, public safety and community welfare considerations.

"No rights to any particular use or development vest in any property owner simply because the use or development is permitted by the Land Development Code," Jordan read from his staff report. "Since zoning regulations are always subject to change for purposes related to the public health, safety and general welfare, the fact that any particular use or development is permitted at any time does not mean that such use or development might not be prohibited by future amendment to the Land Development Code."

One sticking point that came up during discussions related to Section 126-172 of the code (Improvement, reconstruction or relocation prohibited, exemptions) fell under Article XII,

"In the interest of safety, development and construction to provide building access for persons with disabilities, or to meet federal or state requirements for that use, provided the development cannot practically be accompanied within the existing perimeter," Subsection 5 reads, in part.

The subcommittee questioned what authority city legislation might have when challenging federal and state ADA compliance.

Other subjects brought up during Tuesday’s meeting included flood insurance requirements, the state’s 50 percent build-back rule and the possibility of trading compliance with non-compliance matters.

Because the subcommittee had previously cancelled their July 27 meeting, they will continue discussions on Vested Rights at their Aug. 10 session, which will begin at 8 a.m.