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Surrey bikes look to be safe to ride on Sanibel shared use paths

By Staff | Nov 11, 2015

By BRIAN WIERIMA

bwierima@breezenewspapers.com

No action was taken on an ordinance to expand the maximum width of bicycles on the Sanibel shared use paths from 36 inches to 47 inches, but a new version will come back to the City Council for reviewal and passage in the next coming meetings.

The proposed ordinance stated that bicycles which do not exceed 47 inches in maximum width can be rented or offered for rental by the rental businesses on the island or by hotel/resorts which rent out bicycles.

If the ordinance was passed, it would have effectively banned the Surrey, six-passenger bikes, which are rented out by each of Finnimore’s Cycle Shop and Billy’s Rentals on Sanibel.

The Surrey measures 47 inches in width, which far exceeds the maximum of the current 36 inch ordinance.

But instead of passing the ordinance to fit the Surrey bikes into being legal, the City Council discussed a 15-year grandfathering clause to allow the Surrey bikes to be rented by the two businesses, while keeping the 36-inch maximum width limit in place.

“I don’t see a problem with have a 15-year grandfather clause in the ordinance,” said Billy’s Rentals’ owner Billy Kirkland. “We are not asking to expand the max width to 47 inches, and we are not asking the opportunity to have more Surreys, either.”

Currently, Billy’s Rentals has eight Surreys to rent, as does Finnimores. The City Council decided to take no action on the proposed ordinance and have City Manager Judie Zimomra come back with a revised one, which will have a 15-year grandfather clause for the use of 16 Surreys (which can be replaced) with eight each by Finnimores and Billy’s Rentals.

The revised ordinance will need to go through a first reading with no public comment, then a second hearing, which will be open for public statement and be voted on by the City Council.

The City Council voted 5-0 to pass an agreement between the City and DeLisi, Inc. for consulting and providing advocacy in addressing water quality issues for the amount of $20,000.

But the cost to Sanibel will be $5,000, which will be joining forces with area municipalities which will also share the cost of the $20,000. Along with Sanibel’s $5,000, Fort Myers and Cape Coral will each provide $5,000, with Estero and Fort Myers Beach each providing $2,500.

“We are going to need to raise $30 million to help the water quality issue by 2020, so this is imperative,” said Mayor Kevin Ruane.

DeLisi Inc., will provide consulting and advocacy in addressing water quality issues and associated legislative reviews, while assisting the group in approaching legislative issues and strategies.

The City of Sanibel and Mayor Ruane also gained an important connection with the new Colonel of the U.S. Army District Commander of the Army Corp of Engineers Jason Kirk.

In a letter dated Sept. 9, to Mayor Ruane, Kirk writes that, “We are working closely with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to move the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project forward, which will provide valuable benefits to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

“When completed, the project will capture and store basin stormwater runoff, along with a portion of water discharged from Lake Okeechobee in a 10,500 acre storage reservoir. This will enable the water to be slowly released into the Caloosahatchee, as needed.”

Councilman Jim Jennings said the letter and the relationship with Col. Kirk is an important step for the City of Sanibel addressing the important issue of water quality in Southwest Florida.

It was voted 5-0 to have Zimomra to bring back a new plan of implementing the Dark Skies Education Program. The Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold proposal was presented to the City Council at the cost of $149,000, which was not greeted kindly by the five Councilmen.

“If this island isn’t dark at night, I don’t know what is,” said Councilman Marty Harrity. “But $150,000! Come on! That would be an absolute misuse of public funds.”

Sanibel resident Steve Maxwell agreed with Harrity during the public comment portion about the cost of the implementation and education of the public for the Dark Skies ordinance.

“Please don’t spend $150,000 on an education program, when all you have to have are some little pamphlets inside the City Hall offices people can pick up,” Maxwell said.

Mayor Ruane instructed Zimomra for city staff to work on ideas about how to have an educational program, which potentially can be done in-house and much cheaper than the proposed $149,000.

The City Council re-appointed three members to the general employees’ retirement plan board, who were proven to be well-qualified to fill the positions, again.

They include Rich McDonnell, Dick Pyle and Dan Wexler.

Pamela Miller was appointed to the vegetation committee, as well.

The City Council also recognized the 30th Anniversary of Baileyfest, which was held Sunday, Oct. 25, as well as the 60th Anniversary of the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District.

Kelsey Reed of the Public Works Department also was named Employee of the Quarter for the Fourth Quarter, fiscal year.