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Commissioners to take up parking debate

By Staff | Oct 9, 2013

JIM LINETTE Redevelopment of the commercial district, specifically the areas of parking and interconnectivity, comes before the Sanibel Planning Commission for public discussion at its Oct. 22 meeting at City Hall. Development of Bennett's Fresh Roast on Periwinkle Way is nearing completion after owners applied for a setback variance and site plan permits that were approved earlier this year just as the city's redevelopment project was being planned.

Commercial redevelopment once again will be the main topic for discussion at the next scheduled meeting of the Sanibel Planning Commission on Oct. 22 at City Hall.

Two areas up for debate and recommendations are parking and interconnectivity regulations of the Land Development Code. Commissioners have been digesting hundreds of pages of statistics and staff recommendations for more than two weeks in preparation for the start of discussions and public comments on Oct. 22.

Many believe that taking the community in the direction of a more walkable and bikeable commercial district is at the heart of the solution to a shortage of parking spaces and lacking the land area to expand those lots.

“I’m all for a walkable and bikeable community,” said commissioner Dr. Phil Marks. “I certainly don’t want to eliminate any parking. There’s not that many people out walking and riding bikes at night, for instance, so you’re not likely to get a lot of people on bikes going to a show at Big ARTS at night.”

Encouraging neighboring businesses to share available parking with the addition of pathways connecting them is another way to ease overcrowding at one location or the other.

“I did a quick visual and determined there are 29 shopping centers on the island with a vacancy rate of 15 percent,” offered commissioner John Talmage.

Vice Mayor Doug Congress, the City Council’s liaison to the Planning Commission, tried to answer preliminary questions from members on the direction council wants them to take it.

“I am a firm believer in checking things out and that any changes make sense,” Congress said.

Commissioners took the time to comment on redevelopment ahead of the public hearing because there was little else to discuss at Tuesday’s meeting. The only public hearing on an application for a variance to replace an existing dock was continued to the Oct. 22 meeting as recommended by planning department memo.

The meeting adjourned after just 30 minutes.