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Commission starts parking, interconnectivity debate

By Staff | Oct 25, 2013

Sanibel Planning Commission members began discussions Tuesday of the city’s parking and interconnectivity phase of the commercial redevelopment project that has been ongoing for the past several months.

Commissioners completed the permitted and conditional uses phase of the project last month and sent it to City Council for review at its Nov. 5 meeting.

City Manager Judie Zimomra began the staff presentation at 1:30 p.m. at MacKenzie Hall.

“We have adequate parking on the island,” Zimomra said. “No one has ever complained to us that they wanted to shop somewhere and they didn’t stop because they couldn’t find a parking spot. For this discussion, parking does not include beach access areas, just commercial lots.”

Zimomra clarified that the discussion of interconnectivity is considered as between private properties. Interconnectivity is assisted by the city’s shared use path system.

“We have studied our shared use path for many years and considering the thousands of people who use it every day our paths are extremely safe,” said Zimomra.

She added that the shared use path system’s master plan, adopted in 2009, calls for completing the system with path on both sides of Periwinkle Way, for instance, to limit the number of crossings which slow traffic and puts bikers and pedestrians at risk.

“The number one cause of reported accidents on the paths is family or party members becoming distracted and running into each other,” said Zimomra. “The number three cause is between a bicycle and motor vehicle.”

Public Works director Keith Williams confirmed that widening and new path construction plans are going forward, including paths on both sides of main streets. He cited the widening and improvement work along East Periwinkle being done at this time along with minor repairs along all 25 miles of the city’s pathways.

“We’re putting up better signs and painting “Stop” at dangerous junctions, such as crosswalks,” said Williams.

Providing areas for visitors coming onto the island to park and ride bikes wherever they want to go, for instance from the Chamber of Commerce lot on Causeway Boulevard.

“Perhaps we could develop areas such as Roadside park (near the Bailey homestead) as a place for longer term parking for visitors,” said Zimomra. “It’s hard to identify major points of bicycle ingress and egress with the possible exception of Billy’s Bike Rentals. People enter and exit the pathway perhaps many times during their rides.”

Ways to reduce the need and use of automobiles on the island is part of the staff’s drafting of code amendments consistent with direction from the commission. Also under consideration are pathway connectivity, shared parking, adequate bicycle parking areas, landscape buffers screening properties and wildlife habitat, as well as off-street parking and design standards.

Even the subject of roundabouts was suggested for the busiest intersection in town at Periwinkle and Causeway Boulevard.

“A roundabout for that intersection has been studied at least three times before in the last 15 years,” said Zimomra. “Several designs have been looked at. Roundabouts are based on equal traffic coming from all sides. At that intersection, there is the right-hand turn from Causeway onto Periwinkle that runs smoothly, and the large volume of left-hand turns from Periwinkle onto Causeway in the afternoon. Each time it has been determined that traffic flow there does not lend itself to a roundabout.”

Objectives of the parking and interconnectivity discussions include on-site and off-site parking, public and private, that does not overwhelm the resources of individual sites as well as the design and construction of those areas.

Staff cited a recent agreement between Sanibel Congregational Church and Jerry’s Market where weekend overflow parking is allowed at Jerry’s. Same idea for bank and other parking lots not being used in the evening or on weekends for general purpose parking during special events.

The Commission is considering several options regarding interconnectivity. Establish provisions appropriate for shared connectivity; exempt interconnectivity features from required setbacks, cover and and vegetation removal standards; and design standards to ensure interconnectivity features are properly installed and safe.

Regarding parking, considerations are being formed to update off-street requirements and design; standards to accommodate shared off-street parking; and design specific criteria when an existing commercial use changes to a more intensive use.

Staff is now charged with assembling all the discussion parts and bringing back recommendations at the next commission meeting on Nov. 12 for more discussion and public comment.