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City fully supports water quality campaign

By Staff | May 4, 2012

JIM LINETTE Sanibel City Council received certificates from the American Institute of Architects Tuesday recognizing Sanibel's Walker Guest House being voted the top residential structure in Florida during a recent online campaign. City Manager Judy Zimomra (left) accepts a certificate from AIA Florida vice president Amy Nowacki while Mayor Kevin Ruane and Carla Murray accept from AIA Florida state director Joyce Owens (right).

Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting started with a festive air before turning serious when Vice Chairman Mick Denham reported on progress with his water quality campaign.

American Institute of Architects officers presented the city with recognition certificates for the Walker Guest House being voted the top residential structure in Florida during AIA’s recent 100 Years, 100 Places anniversary campaign. Joyce Owens, AIA Florida state director Joyce Owens and vict president Amy Nowacki presented the certificates in a brief ceremony.

The 580-square-foot home designed by architect Paul Rudolph in 1952, Walker Guest House not only won the residential structure award in online voting by the general public, but was No. 3 overall in voting on by architects. More than 2.4 million votes were cast online over several weeks.

After passing several resolutions and consent agenda items, the meeting was turned over to Denham, who said he should have the legislative language in draft form by the end of this week.

“I will be making a presentation to the Regional Planning Commission, the County Commissioners and local legislative representatives,” Denham said in summary. “With their support, hopefully, I will take it to the Florida League of Cities in August to get them onboard.”

Denham proposes to have sponsors lined up for the bill in time for the Florida State Legislature session in December. Denham reiterated that this is not intended to be a Sanibel item, but a regional one drawing in support from other governing bodies.

His campaign has two phases. First, the legislative phase which he is working on and, second, a public relations/community education phase.

Every council member who spoke up during the discussion was fully in support of Dehman’s campaign.

Denham wants to reach out to environmental organizations for their help and perhaps some financial support for the implementation of the PR/educational phase.

“I think we as a council should consider budgeting some money for this and ask other agencies to do the same or match it,” said Denham.

Denham is aware of legislation being written “as we speak” that ultimately would force local governments to clean up their waterways.

“It makes no sense to me that the state would come to us and say you have to do this but not give us the tools to do it,” he said. “With this, we will be ready.”

Barbara Colley, president of the Committee of the Islands, applauded Dehham’s presentation.

“I want to thank councilman Denham for his leadership on this,” Cooley said. “I think you should consider the wealth of commercial muscle that can be flexed on this to put pressure on the legislature, the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers. You need the business community. It’s important for them to be behind it.”

Resident Mike Gillispie suggested Dehman get volunteers from the community to get involved and called the PR/educational program “extremely important.”

Dr. Eric Milbrandt of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) Marine Lab reported on the Clam Bayou oyster reef restoration project.

Clam Bayou, located on the west end of the island at Blind Pass, had its direct connection to the Gulf of Mexico tidal flow cut off by the formation of a sand dune years ago. Mangroves died off, fish kills occurred and destructive algae growth took over.

In 2006 the bayou was reconnected to Pine Island Sound through grants. Other grants in 2009 were awarded to rebuild the oyster reef.

Milbrandt said four truckloads of fossilized shell were delivered to the Bowman’s Beach staging area and an army of volunteers shoveled 100 tons of shell and 5,000 shell bags were deployed with the help of some city staff and heavy equipment.

“We’ve already noticed a difference in the water,” said Milbrandt.

Regarding an offer to sell a parcel of undeveloped land on the west side of Tarpon Bay Road between Sanibel Captiva Road and a vacant former restaurant building to the City of Sanibel drew a “wait and see” attitude from council. City staff and realtors provided the council with evaluations of the property and no council member felt compelled to pursue the purchase at this time.