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Boat dock ordinance going back to planners

By Staff | Aug 4, 2010

Mayor Kevin Ruane, left, accepts a check from LCEC Key Account Executive Tricia Dorn during Tuesday's City Council meeting.

After discussions were stalled due to City Attorney Ken Cuyler investigating the legal ramifications of the matter, Sanibel’s inquiries about lifting the boat dock ban within the Bay Beach Zone have been handed back to the Planning Commission.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously agreed to continue looking into ending the self-imposed prohibition enacted in 1993 as a means of providing protection to the environmentally sensitive sea grasses located in the waters of San Carlos Bay.

Back 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.

According to Cuyler, he requested the commission to table their discussions on the issue early last month in order to look deeper into legal matters. He told the council Tuesday that he contacted an outside law firm with marine law expertise to investigate the potential for litigation should the city keep the ordinance in place.

As a result of his investigation, Cuyler recommended that the council do one of three things: call for the removal of the ban and continue with the Planning Commission’s review, keep the ban in place while requesting the Planning Commission to look into developing conditions that would allow docks to be constructed within the Bay Beach Zone or keep the ordinance in place with no further discussions.

Steve Hartsell, an attorney representing seven property owners who had brought forth the request to lift the ban, told the council that he felt no animosity towards Cuyler’s handling of the matter, but that his clients would prefer a method of finding a fair solution in a timely basis.

"Their first choice is to work along with the city," said Hartsell, "and that’s how they’ve done this."

Hartsell explained that the issue at hand comes down to having reasonable regulations vs. the legal rights of property owners. He also suggested that going to court would provide an "objective point of view" regarding legal standoffs.

"This is a small group of owners that has to bear the burden of protecting sea grasses," he said, calling the "unconstitutional" 17-year-old ordinance the "taking of a property right without paying for it."

The council talked about if it could be determined how boat docks could be installed without disturbing sea grasses, along with using environmentally responsible materials for those docks. They also discussed any change in city ordinances were subject to a public hearing.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham said that he would like to see the Planning Commission continue to work on evaluating whether the city should allow boat docks within the Bay Beach Zone, passing along their findings and suggestions to the council.

"Personal property rights are first and foremost," said councilman Marty Harrity.

"In the end, this may wind up being more of an ethics issue than a legal one," added Peter Pappas.

Mayor Kevin Ruane motioned for the issue to be handed back to the Planning Commission for their input.

"It seems like we did something wrong (in 1993)," said Ruane. "We took something away from somebody, and ethically that bothers me."

In other business, LCEC Key Account Executive Tricia Dorn presented the city with a check for $9,505.36 while detailing the latest steps in LCEC’s corrective action plan introduced at last months City Council meeting.

Dorn stated that the money comes out of LCEC’s equity ownership, distributed to the utilities’ customers from their profit-sharing fund. It is the first time LCEC has made disbursements since 2007.

In addition, LCEC has instituted around-the-clock coverage on the island in case of power outages or emergencies, installed two of four video monitoring cameras along the main electric line, accelerated their tree-trimming procedures and improved overall communications with Sanibel, including a direct link posted on the city’s website.

"I’ve certainly noticed your continued improvements," said Ruane.

Also, the council approved the awarding of a contract with Advanced Roofing and Sheet Metal for $233,290 to install a new roof on City Hall. The roof is currently 26 years old and has showed signs of deterioration, including rust and holes. The city budget had initially estimated the project to cost $300,000.