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City tackles beach projects

By Staff | Jan 18, 2013

Kurt Schulte

Sanibel Director of Natural Resources James Evans brought City Council up to date Tuesday on beach renourishment projects needed this year as a result of erosion inflicted to the island coastline during the recent tropical storm season.

Evans laid out the beach “hot spots” that were damaged by Tropical Storm Debby in June and Hurricane Isaac in August and Hurricane Sandy in October. Those hot spots include locations at Lighthouse Beach Park, West Gulf Drive in the vicinity of West Wind Inn and an area south of Blind Pass.

“We need to continue to monitor the areas of concern and furthermore decide what we can do,” said Evans.

Having a direct impact on renourishment is the dredging going on at Blind Pass, which is entering its second phase. The city needs to decide where to put the sand from the dredging.

City Council also recognized Sanibel Recreation Department employee Barbara Gennity as the city’s Employee of the Year (2012). She has been on the job since September 2007.

Barbara Gennity

“I’ve been up here before, but it is very nice to get an award voted on by my peers,” Gennity said in council chambers. “Thank you.”

Police Officer Kurt Schulte was recognized for 25 years of service to the department. Hired in October 1987, Schulte has been the Sanibel School Resource Officer and Drug Abuse Resistance Education Officer since 1995. He acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and is pursuing a Master’s in Theology. He was appointed Police Chaplain in 2009.

“A big thank you to the city,” said Schulte, who is the 21st city employee added to the Quarter Century Club plaque on the wall of MacKenzie Hall. “I am very blessed with opportunities to go through a lot of training. I have literally grown up in this place and on this island.”

Susan Beck, who retired in November as Planning Commission recording secretary, was recognized for her 10 years of service.

Evans reported to council that the shoreline at Lighthouse Beach has stabilized leaving West Gulf Drive and Blind Pass the primary areas of concern. He recommended a post-storm event beach profile survey which would be required to implement an emergency renourishment of the beaches.

Two projects are scheduled in 2013 on Sanibel and Captiva shorelines. The first is dredging inside of Blind Pass performed by Florida Dredge and Dock Inc. All beach compatible sand dredged from the pass, about 40,000 cubic yards, will be used to the south near Silver Key.

The second project is on Captiva, managed by Captiva Erosion Prevention District (CEPD), set to begin during the summer once federal funding becomes available. The project aims to place 769,000 cubic yards of sand along the entire Captiva shoreline. Another 75,000 cubic yards of sand will be placed on Sanibel south of Blind Pass.

Council directed staff by a motion to move forward with the assessment and solution to the project.

Evans also reported to council on the Central Everglades Planning Project.

“The goal of this project is to get more water into the Everglades,” Evans said of the two-year planning process. “It has produced four alternative plans as the project moves forward.”

Evans’ report went handily with Vice Mayor Mick Denham’s update on the citizen fertilizer educational program which has secured financial commitments from almost all community entities contacted for their support.

“I would like (Sanibel) to match Lee County’s pledge of $60,000,” said Denham.

The amount threw a scare into other council members even though they still stand firmly behind Denham’s program moving forward.

“I don’t think there is a need for us to be equal with the county,” said Mayor Kevin Ruane.

Council was not ready to make its financial commitment at this meeting. Councilmen Marty Harrity and Doug Congress also sided with Ruane, suggesting securing outside funds from entities like the Tourist Development Council (TDC) before reaching a rational percentage of the total funding goal of $150,000.

Council also heard a report on the city’s commercial redevelopment plan. Planning Director James Jordan updated the body with a presentation of census figures collected to identify the areas of concern.

Three areas were compared factually – Sanibel, Captiva and the Iona-McGregor area off island.

According to the study, employment on Sanibel peaked in 1999 before falling off. The other areas showed similar results. Sanibel’s greatest growth period occurred in the 1970s and 1980s while the other areas peaked in the 1990s or later.

Sanibel’s median age of its 408 commercial properties is 39 years while Captiva is 36 years and Iona just eight years. It is less expensive to lease commercial space off the island.

The study also looked at payroll, income, population and age statistics.

The median age of a Sanibel resident in 2010 is 65 years old. The median age was 60 just 10 years earlier. Also, the fastest growing age group on Sanibel is those age 65-84. Captiva’s median age is 57 and Iona 63.

Sanibel’s seasonal housing percentage reached 49 percent in 2010, which is up from 43 percent in 1990 and 31 percent in 2000. Captiva, by comparison, is at 61 percent, an increase from 54 percent in 2000.

The study concluded that Sanibel’s commercial properties are older than those off-island, more expensive to lease than off-island space, and off-island commercial stock is newer and has more vacant property than the island can offer.

Council will hear another update on commercial redevelopment at its next meeting on Feb. 5.