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Resort Housing: No mulligans

By Staff | Apr 6, 2011

To the editor,

How resort housing is redeveloped matters to all of us. Short term rentals are very important to our economy. Many a vacationer has fallen in love with Sanibel’s unique low profile, and bought a piece of paradise. The restaurants, shops and grocery stores we enjoy depend on the tourist traffic to augment residential patronage.

Buildings do wear out, they fall out of style, and need to be replaced. All of that speaks to why there is concern. However, that is not a reason to abandon an award-winning plan that has protected us from over development since 1976, nor is “Council said to.” We incorporated because Lee County standards were unacceptable for Sanibel. Why would we want to revert to them? I believe there are many questions that need to be asked and answered. And much work left to be done to find a Sanibel solution.

How many short term rentals are optimum? How many units do we actually have?

The Sanibel Plan was challenged a number of times. What was the outcome of those cases? (This type of information proved to be critical in the recent Docks on the Bay issue.)

How many units do the hotels, motels, and inns have right now? How many could they have if they rebuilt today?

Rentable space equates to money. If we go forward with this proposal, how long will it be before the people who developed their property under the Sanibel Plan cry foul and expect the same density increase or money in compensation?

Many building improvements that are compatible with the philosophy of the Sanibel Plan exist today that didn’t 35 years ago. We should be looking at them. We should be looking at how other concerned communities have handled this problem.

Plans must be consistent in how they treat property owners or they are open to justifiable challenge. We need to figure out how to modify Sanibel codes so short term rental properties can be rebuilt. This needs to be done in a way that will protect the building and environmental standards that make us unique and attract people who appreciate our uniqueness.

I know if we take the time to gather and discuss the facts, we will find ordinance language that is consistent with our land use law — the Sanibel Plan. We have a very talented community. They need to be invited to the conversation. There are no mulligans in an issue like this. We must get it right – everyone’s property values and quality of life depend on it.

Karen A. Storjohann