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Decision on regional planning council postponed

By Staff | Aug 23, 2011

City Council postponed its decision to withdraw from the Regional Planning Council Monday, waiting for more information before making a final decision.

The postponement comes, in part, after Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz discovered that the city of Sanibel doesn’t pay dues to have a seat on the council, using an old agreement that gave a free rotating seat to two municipalities in Lee County, the other being Bonita Springs.

Since the Bonita is now a full member paying its dues, the city of Sanibel has had a free seat for the last 10 years.

Chulakes-Leetz said he feels the city should have the option to be part of the free rotation. As of now, the city pays nearly $50,000 to have a seat on the council, more than any other city in the planning council, which includes six separate counties.

“I think we would have a fair and reasonable opportunity to have a free seat like the city of Sanibel has,” he said.

Council decided to pay its current dues of approximately $12,214 for the last quarter, and then address the issue again during its voting meeting Sept. 12.

Between now and then, council hopes to discover whether or not it actually need a seat on the council to have access to the type of planning information that could be available.

Council also debated whether having Lee County Commissioners speak for the city on important issues.

The county has two seats on the regional planning board. Commissioners Frank Mann and Brian Bigelow currently hold those positions.

“I’m not comfortable with county commissioners,” Councilmember Derrick Donnell said. “They do a great job, but I want us representing us.”

“I’m reluctant to have our county commissioners work as our representatives many times they have interests adverse to ours,” Councilmember Bill Deile added.

RPC Interim Director Liz Donley said the cities of LaBelle, Clewiston, Marco Island and Naples do not pay dues.

Donley also said that many years ago the city of Sarasota decided to back out of the council, deciding instead to let Sarasota County commissioners act as their representatives.

Mayor John Sullivan, who brought the proposition forward, thought the city could foster the same kind of arrangement with Manning and Hall.

“There is nothing that can’t be done through our county commissioners I see no benefit for the city,” Sullivan said.