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Commissioners, chamber weigh in on permit process

By Staff | Aug 17, 2012

JIM LINETTE Robert Monk of the Chamber of Commerce shares some business survey responses Tuesday with the Sanibel Plan Commission's permit process review subcommittee Tuesday.

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The Sanibel Plan Commission conducted two meetings Tuesday at City Hall, its regular public meeting and a second of the permitting process review subcommittee.

The regular commission meeting lasted less than 30 minutes with a temporary use permit application the main item. The subcommittee hearing lasted twice as long.

Permitting process on the island has been studied by commissioners in recent months, which led to the formation of the review subcommittee. The panel is looking at ways to simplify and streamline the application process to encourage new business activity as well as current businesses investing in improvements.

Three areas are being scrutinized – formula retail stores, conditional uses and permit feed.

JIM LINETTE Building permit staffer Roy Gibson (center) gives department recommendations on a temporary use permit application before the Sanibel Plan Commission. Homeowner applicants Karl and Ann Rodman with builder Tom Wolter attended the meeting Tuesday to see their request win approval.

The panel has refined the definition of “formula retail” stores. Stores with more than one location that originate on the island are not considered formula. Currently, the second location of a store that did not originate on the island is deemed formula.

The new definition states the second location of a retail store that had its original location in or outside the city if not defined as formula.

“I think this is a strong step forward,” said commissioner John Talmage. “It shows that we can protect businesses and the public interest.”

Planning Department staff does not recommend any changes to the current conditional use permit process after studying a dozen applications filed over the past four years. Many of those applications were processed in less than 60 days with the longest taking six months.

Another modification lowered the fee to accommodate small on-site food preparation uses without on-site seating. The panel recommends establishments without seating and no more than 300 square feet of floor space pay a $2,000 fee, and those up to 800 square feet pay $3,105. The fee increases $1,279 for each additional 500 square feet or fraction thereof.

The fee for commercial use with on-site seating is $3,729 plus $28 per seat.

“The department did a fee study originally, like 15 years ago,” said plan director James Jordan. “It was done again about 10 years ago. Our fees are competitive with other municipalities.”

The board heard comments from the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, which is conducting a business survey. The chamber received more than 200 responses in the last few weeks, according to the chamber’s chairman of government affairs committee Robert Monk.

“Many responses think the process took longer or much longer than they expected,” said Monk. “We found there is a small but significant number that did not apply because of the cost or length of time it takes to start. One of the most important things you can do is remove some of the uncertainty of the process.”

Monk said the chamber hopes to present its recommendations to improve the process to the commission from the full survey soon.

Discussions often made reference to the swift processing of the temporary use permit before the commission at Tuesday’s earlier meeting.

Homeowners Karl and Ann Rodman were requesting permission to continue to occupy their existing single-family residence while a new single-family residence is constructed on the property at 5657 Sanibel Captiva Road. Before the completion of the new structure and occupancy, the existing home would be demolished and removed.

With the Rodmans in attendance along with builder Tom Wolter of the Wolter Group, Plan Department staffer Roy Gibson recommended approval of the permit which comes with six minor conditions, one being a one-year deadline.

Lacking outside comments or opposition to the permit, the commission approved it unanimously.