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Dark Skies ordinance passes on Sanibel

By Staff | Mar 10, 2015

After a year’s worth of the public’s input and many hours of discussion by the Sanibel City Council, the Dark Skies ordinance No. 15-004, was passed by a 5-0 vote Tuesday during the monthly meeting.

“It’s appropriate this crescendo comes on my last meeting,” said Vice-Mayor Doug Congress, who was the main framer or the ordinance. “We’ve talked with hundreds of citizens, groups, businesses and homeowners, so I think it has been an excellent process.”

That was the overwhelming response during the public comment session, after the second reading of the ordinance intended to regulate lighting to protect wildlife, was had. Everyone who spoke was in favor of the current ordinance, which wasn’t the case in many City Council meetings throughout the process, which started Feb. 3, 2014.

“I support the ordinance and I feel the island is dark enough,” said Dick Weiss, who represented Mariner Pointe. “The Council did a great job of still providing a safe environment.”

David Bath, vice president of the Committee of the Islands, supported the ordinance, as well.

“This is a good ordinance,” Bath said. “I commend the three improvements to the ordinance, and thank the Council and the Vice-Mayor for putting in the work.”

The three changes to the ordinance which helped placate many, included clarifying the use of up-lighting, prohibit unshielded pole lighting and the prohibition of glare from luminaries which affected motorists, pedestrians and neighbors.

The hardcopy of the ordinance has seven pages of graphics of which kind of luminaries are compliant and which are not, as well as the 90-degree rule of up-lighting.

With discussion of the ordinance providing plenty of dissension through its evolution, the final vote on it was pretty undramatic.

“We did all the heavy lifting before this and were hoping that it was going to be a foregone conclusion that it was going to pass,” said Congress, whose term ends March 16, after not seeking re-election. “Our plan was to keep it simple as possible, so in five or 10 years, they have the same interpretation as we did today and I think we accomplished that.”

With the Dark Skies ordinance officially passed, the next step is to provide the necessary education needed for the public to understand what is compliant and what is not.

“That will be the biggest difference between today and 15 years ago,” Congress said of the education process. “We cannot forget to put together a program for educating the public about the ordinance.”

An update on the Blind Pass erosion concern was given by Sanibel’s Public Works director Keith Williams to the Council, as the appropriate permits have been secured to add 600 cubic yards of sand to the problem area, if needed.

“If we add it too early, we’ll lose the sand, but if we add it too late, it will make no impact,” Williams said. “It’s still 41 feet from the edge of the road, so that’s in no danger. The power company also moved the power line poles for safety reasons.”

The estimated cost to bring in the 600 cubic yards of sand stands at $21,000.

James Evans, director of Natural Resources, gave an update of water quality issues, as well.

There are no signs of red tide affecting any of the Southwest Florida coastline, and he also added the Department of Environmental Protection awarded $1 million for restoration of the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee estuaries, with $500,000 of that going to the SCCF, located on Sanibel.

There also were two more parties to endorse the watershed white paper, including the Audubon of Southwest Florida and the City of Lauderhill.

Mayor Kevin Ruane proposed to set up a procedure to conduct evaluations on the city attorney and city manager. He proposed to bring in an outside attorney to look over the contracts of both during the evaluation, just to have a subjective party to make sure everything is in order.

“We need to make sure this is in black and white and there are forms to fill out,” Ruane said. “With no disrespect to either Judie Zimomra (city manager) or Ken Cuyler (city attorney), I would like to see an outside attorney to look at their contracts, just to keep our separation of ‘church and state’.”

Ruane will go through the League of Voters for recommendations of having an outside attorney look at the contracts.

Both measures passed 5-0.

There has been no negative comments thus far concerning the Dunes Neighborhood Traffic Study and the lowering of the speed limit to 20 miles per hour.

Councilman Mick Denham became the City Council liaison to the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, with the City of Sanibel supporting the organizations’ cause of art works awareness.

In the City’s letter of support, it states: “The City of Sanibel will assist with this important project by providing information on City art works to be included in the guide and assisting as possible in providing background information on the sites. A City staff member will also participate in reviewing the draft Art Field Guide and online map to ensure the accuracy of information on Sanibel art works. Last, the City will assist in the distribution of the Field Guides by making them available at the City offices.”

The City Council approved $7,000 for costs of a baseball start-up league on Sanibel. The first practice will be held March 23.