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Traffic scrutinized by Plan Commission

By Staff | Apr 27, 2012

JIM LINETTE A Conditional Use Permit by the Sanibel Sprout in the Palm Ridge Place shopping center to add a juice bar was approved by the Sanibel Plan Commission Tuesday.

Once again the current review of the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) of the Sanibel Plan drew the most attention at Tuesday’s Sanibel Plan Commission meeting at City Hall.

Specifically, the transportation section received the most citizen and commissioner input. The discussion was initiated by commission vice chairman Phillip Marks when he brought up the subject of the number of off-island buses arriving daily and dropping off large crowds of people at public beach accesses.

Ways to address concerns about the practice, as well as whether or not to include it in the EAR language, bounced off several commissioners.

“The Plan is broad and general, but there is nothing in it that says you can’t study solutions separately,” advised City Attorney Ken Cuyler. “It’s best not to make it part of the master plan.”

Ideas to control the buses ranged from parking restrictions to bridge tolls to city permits for bus operators.

“This problem has not gone unnoticed,” Cuyler said. “City Council is aware of the bus issue and discussions already are going on.”

Traffic congestion along Periwinkle Way, especially during season, was sparked by commissioner Chuck Ketteman.

“Are we content with being an ‘F’ (level of service) on Periwinkle, saying that there is nothing we can do about it?” said Ketteman.

The discussion, which included input by Public Works Director Scott Krawczuk, brought up adding center left-turn lanes at certain intersections and major shopping complexes as well as limiting vehicle access to Periwinkle from Casa Ybel Road during the four-month peak season.

Several citizens commented on the Periwinkle traffic and the shared use pathway.

One citizen compared the bus issue to large cruise ships which are only allowed to dock at larger ports capable of handling a huge influx of people all at one time.

Another pointed out tour buses that stop at the Historic Village are not solicited by the museum, but by Lee County tourism organizations that include the Village, the Shell Museum and Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge among its many destinations throughout the county.

A third resident expressed happiness the commission sparked the discussion and was aware of the situation, saying the time is appropriate to discuss transportation issues and find out the facts on the number of buses coming onto the island.

Solid waste and recycling, storm drainage, and recreation and open space sections of the EAR also were updated through language additions and deletions meeting little opposition by the public or commissioners.

The commission approved two permit applications Tuesday. The first, which came before a commission meeting two weeks ago, allows the after-the-fact Variance for an over-the-water walkway connecting two legal boat docks in the canal on neighboring properties on Lindgren Boulevard and Angel Wing Drive. The walkway, constructed by previous property owners before the city was incorporated, violates the 15-foot side lot line setback regulation.

The application was unanimously approved with the joint applicants – Robert and Anita Smith and Mark and Deborah Wlaz – required to have a licensed marine contractor with Longshoreman’s insurance pull the permit at the Building Department.

Secondly, a Conditional Use Permit was sought by the Sanibel Sprout, an existing health food store in the Palm Ridge Place shopping center at 2330 Palm Ridge Road. Store owners Edith and Nikki Rood applied to add an organic carry-out juice bar to the establishment.

After some discussion of health concerns raised by vice chairman Marks, who asked that a health department inspection be required, the application was approved by a 6-1 vote. Marks cast the sole “no” vote. The rest of the commissioners were satisfied that, being a health food store, the facility already is subject to health department regulations and is inspected several times each year.