Redevelopment study sparks commission debate
The city of Sanibel’s commercial redevelopment study was presented to the Planning Commission at Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall.
The study, conducted by Planning Department staff, was presented to City Council last week. Another update on the study is expected at Council’s February meeting.
No action on the study was taken by Plan Commissioners at Tuesday’s public hearing, but the presentation did spark a spirited discussion on the island’s development guidelines.
Commission chairman Michael Valiquette called the study a waste of time unless the Land Development Code’s 100-foot setback restriction on commercial property is changed.
“There was a deliberate decision by the person who wrote the Land Development Code to restrict development,” said Valiquette. “If you have a 125-foot lot with a 100-foot setback in the front, and a 20-foot setback from water in the back what are you left to build on? Zero!”
All seven commissioners joined in the debate as to reasons for a high number of restaurants in the commercial space compared to other business usages, the average age of Sanibel’s population being 65 years, the average age of the commercial buildings and the island’s higher rental cost per square foot.
Commissioner Holly Smith agreed with comments by the public that Sanibel should look at ways to draw younger people to the island to live, work and shop. She also said it was a great point to study other resort towns or areas comparable to Sanibel rather than compare the island to Iona, which has 15 times more commercial property than Sanibel.
Conclusions of the study to this point indicate the average age of Sanibel’s commercial stock is older than the average age of the stock off-island (Iona). The island’s commercial growth occurred in the 1970s and 1980s while the growth of Iona occurred since 1990.
“Over the past two decades significant growth off-island has created a large inventory of newer and less expensive commercial stock in the area immediately off-island,” the study reads.
“I guess we will wait to hear back from Council,” Valiquette concluded.
In other business before the commission, the resolution approving Bennett’s Fresh Roast project at 1020 Periwinkle Way, which included a variance from the 100-foot setback rule, passed unanimously.
A public hearing on the proposed neglected property ordinance was postponed until the next meeting to give staff time to do more research on the working of the ordinance.
In commissioner Dr. Phillip Marks’ closing remarks he applauded the city for cleaning up dead fish from red tide that washed up on the Gulf beaches south of the lighthouse.
“The city buried the fish about 36 inches down and they will decay,” vice-chair Marks said. “I’m concerned about the bones, later, if a storm washes away the sand and exposes them to the surface posing a danger to people who walk barefoot on the beach.”
According to Public Works Director Keith Williams, crews worked last Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings removing a total of 11 cubic yards of dead fish and burying them nearby.
“Fish stopped showing up on the beach Sunday,” Williams said. “We try to bury them in places that would not be affected by a storm’s higher tides.”
Williams added fish were removed from the beach at Blind Pass last fall on a much smaller scale than last weekend.