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Why should you care about the Captiva land development code?

By Staff | Sep 23, 2010

Right now, the Captiva Community Panel is soliciting input from the island community on proposed changes to the parts of Lee County’s Land Development Code (LDC) that regulate building and land use activity on Captiva. Property owners and registered voters have been asked to participate in an online survey covering eight questions focused on the top issues the panel has tackled during this code revision process.

Why should Captivans care?

1) The LDC implements the Captiva Plan, to give staff specific guidance to the broad policies set forth in the Future Land Use element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. If Captivans don’t set their own specific standards, county staff won’t have the policy guidance they need to implement the Captiva Plan on a day-to-day basis.

2) The LDC regulates rentals, signs, building heights and other land use matters throughout the island. Some residents may (rightly or wrongly) complain about county enforcement, but without rules there won’t be anything to enforce.

3) The LDC will regulate where future construction and reconstruction occurs on the island. Let’s use building heights as an example: The height of your home today is based on the rules in place when it was constructed. Some houses were built at a greater overall height than would be allowed today; other houses were built at lower base elevations than is now required.

The problem is particularly acute for owners of properties in the federally-imposed VE flood zone, especially those whose properties lie seaward of the state-mandated construction control line. These property owners will face a difficult situation if they attempt to build or rebuild on their properties, and may be forced to build with low ceilings in order to meet the current LDC’s rigid height regulations in combination with the FEMA-mandated flood elevations. The Captiva Community Panel heard from a large number of citizens and deliberated for many months to reach the proposed compromise which is now under review.

Regardless of the rules that were in place when your home was built, any future rebuilding will be governed by the rules now in place. So tomorrow’s rules DO matter to today’s property owner. On a barrier island where the potential for storm destruction or redevelopment are higher than in many places, the house you have today may not be the house you’re allowed to build (or rebuild) tomorrow.

4) The LDC allows Captivans to set an example or start a transition ahead of schedule. Take the proposed rules on septic systems: Even though the state plans to require inspections more regularly in the near future, Captivans have a chance to set a higher standard — sooner — for septic inspections and maintenance, as a way to show their concern for the island’s nearshore water quality by agreeing to enhanced regulation sooner rather than later.

5) The LDC is an evolving document that needs to be updated to reflect new concerns, new technology and new issues facing the island. Rules that worked in the pas may not work in the future, and rules that weren’t enforced in the past (because they weren’t enforceable) may need to be rewritten so that they can be put into practice. While one should not enact change for change’s sake, neither should one cling to the old rules simply because they are there.

The Community Panel held monthly meetings and numerous special workshops over the past year to tackle these crucial issues, engaging both a professional planner and islanders’ input to draft and redraft LDC language that strived to address community concerns as they were expressed during all these meetings. Now, the panel has taken the extra step of asking the community to comment on these proposals through this online survey.

For the reasons outlined here (and more), it’s worth your time as a Captiva property owner or voter to share your opinion on these proposals. Join your fellow Captivans in making your community even better.

(Ken Gooderham is administrator of the Captiva Community Panel. Max Forgey, AICP, with Forgey Planning Services, has served as the panel’s planner during these LDC revisions.)