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Council debates beach study, EAR changes

By Staff | Sep 21, 2012

JIM LINETTE Fresh paving along sections of Periwinkle Way was under way during the nighttime hours this week. It's all part of the city's yearly resurfacing project. Several residential side streets now are wearing new asphalt as well, including the long-debated Nerita Street. The $790,000 contract is expected to be completed by the end of September.

The most debate from council members and the public at Tuesday’s Sanibel City Council meeting, as in the past, was the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) changes to the Sanibel Plan.

Specifically targeted was the language for the section dealing with beach-carrying capacity. Previous changes were made to give the city flexibility in carrying out any study of the island beaches regarding wildlife and human impacts. Everyone agreed a study is a good idea.

“It’s something I think we all want to do,” said Mayor Kevin Ruane. “It’s important, but we have budget constraints. We need to do a study, just not tomorrow.”

Discussion centered around inexpensive methods of utilizing citizen partners to not only begin to collect data, but to determine exactly the city wants the study to find out.

Volunteers with Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) are on the beaches every week surveying turtle nests, for instance, and observe many beach happenings unrelated to turtles.

SCCF Erick Lindblad said his group would be a natural partner to accomplish data collection, as well as other environmental groups.

No one suggested the study assume the purpose of taking the beach conditions back to the 1950s by any means, but establish a baseline “of what we have now and how to maintain it at this level.”

Even the notion of changing the name of the item from “beach-carrying capacity” to “beach condition” was seriously considered while the language remained under “recommended” that a study be done.

Sections dealing with the city’s below market range housing through Community Housing Resources (CHR), capital improvements, policies and zone maps did not meet with the same level of discussion this time around.

From here, the revised EAR goes to a public hearing before the Sanibel Planning Commission in October. Returns to city council for adoption and transmission to the state in November. After a state hearing on the report, final adoption by city council is expected in January or February.

Daytime and nighttime street resurfacing work that began in August continues to make progress over its 45-day contract. Several residential side streets have been repaved, including the long-debated Nerita Street that now wears its first and only layer of asphalt. Nerita Street residents will share in the cost of that paving through a special assessment.

Sections of Periwinkle Way and Causeway Boulevard, some of the city’s busiest roadways, got new asphalt this week over several nights with a minimum disruption to traffic. The city budgeted the project on a $790,000 contract.

Along another paving line, council approved a request from the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce to be allowed to install pavers on the city owned lot adjacent to the Chamber’s visitor parking lot to improve the image and reduce maintenance associated with the unpaved lot. All at Chamber’s expense.

“This is another example of working with partners for a win-win situation,” said Mayor Ruane.

Council also approved a 30-year lease with the Chamber for use of the lot.

A request by SCCF to be allowed to use Roadside City Park, 1442 Periwinkle Way, as the entryway to the Bailey Homestead was approved by council as well with both sides benefiting from the agreement.