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Council addresses boat canopies, mobile food vendors

By Staff | Oct 28, 2014

Boat canopies and mobile food vendors were the hot topics discussed at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

No formal action was taken on either subject, but new or amended ordinances regulating both issues will be coming to council for public hearings soon.

City staff offered council members four options to consider on the boat canopy issue. The first option is to prohibit a second canopy for all property owners. The second option is to set a total square footage that a canopy can cover. The third is to allow waterfront properties one permitted deviation per parcel whether it be a dock size, second boat canopy, a canopy larger than 40-feet by 18-feet by 14-feet or how far a marine improvement extends into the waterway.

Option four, which garnered the most support from council, is to develop a chart placing requirements for marine improvement location on the property, canopy placement and angle and whether a size deviation would be permitted based on the width of the canal or lake.

Council was split down the middle with four members “favoring option one” but “could live with option four.”

“Canopies restrict your view, certainly,” said Councilmember John Carioscia. “I like option one, but option four probably would be my second choice.”

“I’m a fan of option one,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “My second choice would be option four because it takes into account the width of the canal. Too many canopies can make navigation a nightmare and we need to make sure our canals don’t become like New York City cab routes.”

“This is a typical Cape Coral ordinance,” said Councilmember Rick Williams. “It’s too complicated and restrictive. I think option two, limiting the square footage, is the most workable, but option four would be my second choice.”

Mayor Marni Sawicki came down on the side of option one. Later in the discussion Williams recanted and said option one was his choice. That gave option one four points with five favoring option four even as a second choice.

“Option one is my choice, but I can live with option four,” Sawicki said, adding she did not like restricting marine structures to the center one-third of the property’s width.

“If you put the canopy off center you are acknowledging that they obstruct your view,” countered Burch. ‘By moving it you are saying I don’t want my view obstructed, but it’s OK to obstruct the view of your neighbor.”

Councilmember Rana Erbrick, the panel’s liaison to the Planning & Zoning Board, said one canopy and two dock variation requests are coming before the board soon and suggested council take this matter seriously and “get something resolved.”

Prior to 2004 the city had no specific regulations for boat canopies, but they were considered prohibited. After lengthy discussions and a judicial order canopies became permitted. Since then, current regulations were developed and modified to permit canopies.

Today, one canopy is permitted per property, but residents can apply for a deviation permit for a second canopy. A few are approved, but most are turned down. Canopies can be built no closer than 12 feet of the property line and there is no regulation on the angle it can be placed.

Staff recommended option three or four be adopted in addition to requiring new boat canopies be restricted to the center third of the water frontage. Staff will incorporate the council wishes into the ordinance before returning for a public hearing at a later date.

Mobile food vendor ordinance

The mobile food vendor ordinance came before council late last year and was rejected after meeting heavy resistance from the industry. It’s making a comeback with modifications having been made to the ordinance. It was introduced to council at Monday’s meeting and a public hearing was set for Nov. 17

Since the ordinance failed, new Community Development Director Vince Cautero said he has met several times with mobile vendor business owners, a lawyer representing a vendor, one property owner who rents space to a mobile vendor and as many as four restaurant owners.

“We have crafted a tighter ordinance that addresses many of the concerns both sides had with the previous ordinance,” said Cautero.

Among the changes made to the new document, the annual fee to operate a mobile vendor business in the city was reduced from $1,200 to $100; the annual permit limit of 15 was taken out making it easier for mobile vendors to start a business, and hot dog carts were more clearly defined.

“We took a hard look at the definition of mobile as it applies to this situation,” said Cautero. “The 2013 ordinance was not clear, but this one does. We considered the different types of units and made changes so a vendor can locate where they want to.”

Council instructed Cautero to hold one more meeting with the stakeholders to address any final concerns before the public hearing.

“This is not about trying to run anybody out of business,” said Councilmember Derrick Donnell. “I want them to have a voice in setting the criteria.”

Most in attendance back the changes while a few thought the new measure is still too restrictive to help stimulate the economy which the city hoped to achieve.

One vendor pleaded with council not to make it more difficult for his business to operate because he already considers it a hardship.

CRA Advisory Board

In another matter, council appointed two citizens to the CRA Advisory Board. Dan Puleio, whose term had expired, was reappointed while Realtor Linda Biondi was appointed to the other vacancy. Both will serve two-year terms through 2016.

Erbrick proposed adding an alternate member to the board in addition to the present five members. Council approved the suggestion and directed staff to look at changing the ordinance governing the advisory board.