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Workshop ‘first step’ in redevelopment

By Staff | Mar 15, 2013

JIM LINETTE CJ's Island Boutique on Periwinkle Way and all island businesses will be affected by decisions city officials make in forming a commercial redevelopment plan.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane opened Tuesday’s City Council redevelopment workshop meeting asking for patience from the public during the process.

“This issue is as large as we’ve had to face, at least in the six years I’ve been on council,” said Ruane. “The significance of it is great and there is no silver bullet here at all.”

Ruane said the mission of the workshop is to create a vibrant, healthy commercial district. Council began that work by establishing some goals.

A commercial redevelopment plan is needed by the city since the island is at the build-out stage. Very little vacant land remains in either residential or commercial zones.

Council members one by one tossed out goals they viewed as important. They ranged from establishing a civic/cultural center to code improvements, updates, permitting and intended uses in the land development code. It was suggested to be flexible with building and site designs while respecting the previous standards.

JIM LINETTE Decisions city officials make in forming a commercial redevelopment plan would affect all island commercial property, like that occupied by the Pak-n-Ship on Palm Ridge Road.

Traffic congestion on Periwinkle Way, especially during a special event like last weekend’s Shell Festival, and parking is seen as a major issue to be addressed.

A needs assessment of all the non-profit organizations should be established, council believes, to better serve the community and each other.

Among the other ideas brought forth was enhancements to the current public green space on the island as well as creating other family and eco-friendly uses.

Establishing Wi-Fi and other 21st Century technologies was mentioned as a goal to be considered.

“I’ve heard comments that we are doing the same thing over again,” said Vice Mayor Mick Denham. “But let me assure the public that we are very serious about this process going forward.”

Other suggestions included an effort to improve the appearance of existing commercial district structures, most of which were constructed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Another was creating a “land bank” whereby the city would acquire property for public purposes without a specific use or plan for the property at the time.

“Am I hearing a need for a master plan?” said councilman Marty Harrity. “Look at how we got where we are. We got here by issuing one permit at a time.”

While not committing to drawing up a master plan for the future, council conceded that the redevelopment process could lead to creating a master plan in some form.

No specific rules or solutions to the stated goals were discussed during the two-hour meeting, and council took no official action. Members of the public who spoke at the meeting generally encouraged council to continue on the path they are taking.

“I agree with the one comment that we should proceed swiftly,” said Ruane. “We will move ahead as quickly as a government entity can on this.”

City Manager Judie Zimomra and Planning Department director James Jordan will draw up a draft document of the goals expressed Tuesday and bring it back before council at its Tuesday, March 19, meeting.