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Another restaurant would be problematic

By Staff | Dec 17, 2014

To the editor:

(From the Sanibel Vision Statement)

“Sanibel is and shall remain a barrier island sanctuary, one in which a diverse population lives in harmony with the island’s wildlife and natural habitats. The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics.

The City of Sanibel will resist pressures to accommodate increased development and redevelopment that is inconsistent with the Sanibel Plan, including this Vision Statement. The City of Sanibel will guard against and, where advisable, oppose human activities in other jurisdictions that might harm the island’s sensitive habitats, including the island’s surrounding aquatic ecosystems.”

Last March, a small but enthusiastic group of birders trekked down Sanibel Boulevard, binoculars in hand, to catch a glimpse of the elusive scissor-tailed flycatcher. Every single day, throughout the year, families bicycle down Island Inn Road, heading to the trails that wind through the Sanibel Gardens Preserve. The Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society has three different bird walks schedule in the Bailey Tract of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge this coming winter. This is the very heart and soul of Sanibel.

All this is in jeopardy. If the 2.4-acre parcel directly west of Bailey’s General store is home to the largest rum bar and grill on the island, it is highly unlikely the scissor-tailed flycatchers will return. The intersection of Tarpon Bay Road and the end of Periwinkle will soon resemble Times Square with the confluence of no less than twenty-three restaurants and nightclubs within a mile. Our Sanctuary Island will look more like Key West than Sanibel and the Vision Statement quoted above will become nothing more than another empty platitude.

Restaurants are one of a handful of uses that require conditional use permits under the Sanibel Plan. That’s because restaurants are THE most intrusive and intense commercial uses known. When completed, the new Doc Ford’s will be one of the biggest restaurants on the Island. The traffic, noise, car alarms, garbage trucks and trash will change the nature of the abutting preserves forever. Peace and quiet will vanish.

The traffic down Island Inn Road will increase exponentially, in part because of a flaw in the GPS system all of use to navigate. That system still shows this road to be a throughway. Frustrated patrons of the rum bar and grill, unable to pull onto Tarpon Bay Road because of backed-up traffic will turn west down Island Inn Road to find a back way out of the gridlock. A half mile down they will discover the gate blocking the route and head back, no doubt frustrated to be tangled up again in gridlock. In the dusk and darkness there will be road kill.

The marsh rabbits, catbirds, bobcats, coyotes, gopher tortoises, insects and snakes that have made this seldom used stretch of road will likely not survive this onslaught of traffic. The Bailey Tract, the Marie Fisher Craig Tract and The Sanibel Gardens Preserve will soon be devoid of the very wildlife they were designed to protect.

So on behalf of all the wildlife currently thriving in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve and the surrounding sanctuaries, I am asking every citizen of Sanibel to join together in opposing this conditional use permit. By any account, rum, cars and wildlife don’t mix. I implore you, don’t just read the Sanibel Vision Statement, believe in it and make your voices heard.

Charles Sobczak

Author of “Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands.”