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Councilors weigh in on build-back debate

By Staff | Aug 4, 2010

During Tuesday’s City Council session, Vice Mayor Mick Denham responded to last week’s Planning Commission meeting, during which several hours were spent mulling a request for multiple variances with the city’s first build-back application.

As reported by acting commission liaison Holly Smith, planners conducted a lengthy public hearing for the consideration of granting four seperate variances for a Seagrape Lane property which used to contain a 2,319-square-foot duplex. That structure was severely damaged as a result of hurricanes Charley and Wilma, finally being demolished in June 2007.

But while the commission unanimously agreed against granting any of the variances, which failed to comply with the city’s Land Development Code build-back requirements, they were divided — voting 4-2 in favor — over whether to grant the applicant a third extension in order to make adjustments so that the proposed structure could meet the city’s code standards.

"We shouldn’t have spent four hours considering this," said Denham. "Quite frankly, I was a little disturbed that (the application) was even brought before the commission."

Smith, who explained that although the property owners — G. Wesley and Renee Nedblake, who did not attend last week’s hearing — had been granted an extension of their application two previous times over the years since their home was destroyed, the commission had not seen the application before their July 27 meeting. She also noted that a six-month extension had been recommended by the city’s Planning Department staff.

Fellow commissioner Tom Krekel also spoke Tuesday, defending the actions of the panel.

"It had nothing to do with compassion," he said. "It had to do with trying to make this right for that neighborhood."

According to Sanibel Code Section 126-212, "applications to build-back a non-conforming structure that was destroyed or substantially damaged by accidental fire or other natural and disastrous force must be filed within 24 months of the date of the destruction or substantial damage to the building that is to be built back."

The last extension granted for the application officially expired on June 12.

If the Nedblake’s application for build-back were to expire, that property would never be allowed to have a structure built upon it. Krekel explained that the responsibility for maintaining that empty lot, located on a now valuable parcel, would fall into the hands of the city.

"I think it was the proper decision and I don’t think that it weakens our build-back ordinance," he added.

Councilman Peter Pappas, who admonished the Nedblake’s attempt to "extend non-conformity with more non-conformity," warned that the Planning Department might lessen the strength of the city’s 2006 build-back ordinance if it allowed the application to be extended once again.

"This is foreboding," he said. "This is our first case… and look what we’ve got."

Jimmy Jordan, Director of Planning, is expected to take action on the Nedblake’s application at the next commissioner’s meeting on Aug. 10.