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Distressed ordinance sent to council

By Staff | Jun 27, 2013

JIM LINETTE The building that will house Bennett's Fresh Roast on Periwinkle Way undergoes remodeling ahead of the city's major commercial redevelopment project. Planning Commissioners got their first look Tuesday at the interconnectivity and code sections of the project provided by City Council. Commissioners will take up debate and public comments at its next meeting on July 9.

Sanibel Planning Commissioners were eager to vote on a proposed ordinance governing distressed properties at Tuesday’s meeting after taking vacant lots out of the resolution.

“These ordinances are popping up all over Florida,” commented City Council liaison to the commission Doug Congress. “Regarding bank-owned properties, I’ve talked to several bankers and they take these ordinances very seriously. We must do what we can to protect our property values.”

Congress also agreed with commissioner Phil Marks, who stressed the need for enforcement.

“We all need rules to follow to preserve our island,” Marks said. “It’s important that once we get a report on a property that we follow up with the enforcement and move it along.”

“I agree with taking vacant lots out of the ordinance because most of the complaints we get are for buildings on improved lots,” added Congress.

JIM LINETTE Michael Watson of Spectrum Contracting applies paint to the exterior of MacKenzie Hall Tuesday morning. All of City Hall is getting a fresh coat of paint and repairs.

Speaking on behalf of the Planning Department in the absence of director James Jordan, senior planner Roy Gibson noted, “We don’t have a good idea of how many properties on the island are affected. We have done a review and have seen signs of properties in distress.”

The revision defines a distressed property as “any improved property on which is located an occupied or vacant building in a nuisance condition which constitutes or may constitute a threat to the health, safety or welfare of any person as determined by the city’s enforcing official is in violation of this Code.”

A second modification was made to the security requirements section. “Improved property determined to have a vacant building upon inspection shall be kept in a secure manner so as to be kept inaccessible to wildlife or unauthorized persons. A secure manner shall include, but not limited to, closure and locking of all windows, doors, gates and other structure openings that may allow access to the interior “

Commission chair Mike Valiquette made the motion to approve the resolution, which had been debated for several months and redrafted, and it passed unanimously and will be sent to City Council for final action.

Several commissioners had asked about canceling one or more meetings in July concerned that vacations might restrict attendance.

Gibson informed the panel that staff does not recommend canceling any future meetings based on the urgency for commercial redevelopment project activity and an increase in the number of permit applications expected to come to the commission.

Commissioners received redevelopment reports and materials “homework” to prepare for opening comments at the July 9 meeting. It is the first step in forming standards for redevelopment permits on the island in the decades to come.