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Commissioners putting final touches on redevelopment policy

By Staff | Jan 12, 2011

During Tuesday’s Planning Commission gathering, additional work on the proposed legislation regarding redevelopment in the Resort Housing District comprised most of the session, but the question of whether planning department procedures had been followed brought the meeting to a close.

Jimmy Jordan, Director of the city’s Planning Department, introduced the latest changes to the Matrix of Topics affecting resort housing redevelopment. The 19-page matrix includes text that is intended for inclusion in the draft ordinance to amend the Land Development Code that is being prepared by department staff.

“The matrix forwarded to the Planning Commission by the LDCRC is consistent with the ‘Key Ingredients’ identified by City Council for the City’s Redevelopment

Program for the Resort Housing District, with two exceptions,” said Jordan, noting the policies regarding accessory swimming pools in the Gulf Beach Zone and height limits.

According to Jordan’s Jan. 6 memorandum to the commission, the LDCRC recommended that development regulations for the Resort Housing District allow swimming pool facilities located within the Gulf Beach Zone to be reconstructed in the Gulf Beach Zone, but subject to specific conditions and a public hearing.

“In the Resort Housing District, reconstruction of existing nonconforming swimming pools and decks, including all related support components and equipment, located partially or entirely in the Gulf Beach Zone, which in conjunction with prior repairs or rehabilitation amount to a substantial improvement,” the proposed policy reads, in part. “If any portion of such reconstruction is located in the Gulf Beach Zone, the replacement facility cannot exceed the overall size of the existing swimming pool and deck, including all related support components and equipment; however, the pool cavity can be enlarged provided it fits within an area that is no larger than the area of the existing facility that is to be replaced.”

Among the other new components to the policy is the requirement that reconstruction is to be considered for approval by the Planning Commission at a public hearing and after consideration of the applicant’s evidence that all alternative locations for the replacement of a comparably sized pool and deck with related support components and equipment have been examined and found to be unacceptable.

Jordan later changed the phrase “found to be unacceptable” to “found not to be feasible.”

The policy goes on to state that the applicant’s examination of alternative locations shall, at a minimum, include an assessment of all available on-site areas located outside the Gulf Beach Zone. However, Jordan noted that this recommendation raises a concern of consistency with the Sanibel Plan.

Regarding changes to the city’s limitation of building heights, the LDCRC recommended that development regulations for the Resort Housing District be revised to retain the relief to the height limit that is currently available, to better accommodate the increased Base Flood Elevations contained in the 2008 Flood Insurance Rate Map.

“The height of buildings will not exceed three stories above the base flood elevation. This limitation is established by Policy 1.1 in the Scenic Preservation Element (Section 3.2.5) of the Sanibel Plan,” the proposed policy reads, in part. “In the Resort Housing District, the maximum height of buildings shall not exceed 33 feet above the base flood elevation of the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or the Florida Building Code for buildings located seaward of the State of Florida’s

Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL), whichever is higher. However, no building in the Resort Housing District can exceed height greater than 49.8 feet NAVD (or 51 feet NGVD).”

Commission Tom Krekel questioned whether the enlargement of a pool cavity policy being proposed would clash with regulations already in place by the state Department of Environment Protection. He told his fellow commissioners that it was his understanding that no pool excavation could be done within the CCCL.

After further discussion on the policies being considered, Chuck Ketteman motioned for the draft to be conditionally approved, with additional language regarding Section 126-152 to be brought back with staff recommended changes at their next meeting. That motion was unanimously approved.

Resident Karen Storjohann questioned whether the commission could encourage resort owners to install additional “green” technologies — including key cards which would automatically turn off interior lights and adjust the air condition units to switch to a “power save” mode when guests leave their rooms — as part of the city’s redevelopment policy.

“I think that it’s a mistake not to have this part of your thinking,” she said.

Commissioners Holly Smith and Paul Reynolds each argued against making such a regulation. Smith stated that she didn’t think it was the role of government to get involved in “forcing” businesses to employ such technologies, while Reynolds added that the costs associated with installing and maintaining those would go “through the ceiling.”

“I don’t like to see government mandated ecological practices,” he said.

Finally, during Jordan’s announcement of public hearings scheduled to take place at the next Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 25 beginning at 9 a.m., several commissioners questioned why two businesses — Synergy, located in the Tahitian Gardens Shopping Center, and Norris Home Furnishings, located in the Priscilla Murphy Center — were allowed to open without having received their conditional use permits.

Jordan explained that both businesses had submitted their applications too late to be included on the Dec. 14 Planning Commission agenda, and that he and his staff felt comfortable in granting them permission to open their doors in time for the holiday shopping season. Cuyler backed Jordan’s decision, noting that the practice wasn’t without precedent.

After some discussion, Krekel stated, “I think we all agree that this shouldn’t have been done… and shouldn’t be done in the future.”

Dr. Phillip Marks said he was surprised to see the front doors of Norris Home Furnishings open for business before he saw that their application wasn’t scheduled to take place until the end of January. He also questioned how rules established by the city could be ignored and a business be allowed to open without obtaining the proper permits.

“It doesn’t means that they somehow skirted the rules,” added Cuyler. “I’m not sure you should jump to that conclusion.”

Chairman Michael Valiquette requested that Jordan include the draft language for permits granted to formula retail businesses with the permit applications on Jan. 25.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Valiquette was unanimously returned as chairman of the commission, with Marks again serving as vice chairman. Reynolds had been nominated by Marks to serve as chairman, but Valiquette — nominated by Ketteman — received the majority vote, 4-3.