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Sanibel and Captiva make plenty of progress in 2015

By Staff | Jan 6, 2016

With 2015 in the rearview of Sanibel and Captiva, the year can be considered nothing short of spectacular for the islands in paradise.

Progress was made with the passage of a long sought after Dark Skies ordinance by the Sanibel City Council, which also added a new council member in Chauncey Goss, as Jim Jennings returned, as well.

There wasn’t any bad weather to report, and the 10th year of no hurricanes, which is always a good knock on wood moment.

Here is the month by month breakdown of the Year 2015:


The unfortunate deaths of two men in drowning accidents in December of 2014 was still remembered in January. Chad Winter, an 18-year-old from Woodstock, Ill., drowned just off of Gulfside Beach Dec. 15.

The Friday before on Dec. 12, 32-year-old Andrew Barber drown in San Carlos Bay after his kayak flipped and he was swept away by a strong current.

After serving a one, four-year term, Doug Congress decided not to seek re-election for his Sanibel City Council seat.

Congress cited time – or lack of it – was a big factor in his decision to not run.

“I have a growing business and my family greatly sacrificed during my time on the Council,” Congress said. “I just thought four years was enough to devote to the City. Now, it’s family first and business second.”


The motion which would have put the possibility of the Sanibel City Council receiving a $1,500 a month stipend on the 2017 election ballot, has been pulled off the table after an interpretation of the City Charter by City Attorney Kenneth Cuyler satisfied Mayor Kevin Ruane.

The 4-1 vote by the City Council in its monthly meeting Tuesday, to pull the motion by Mayor Ruane, was sparked by Attorney Cuyler’s interpretation of the City Charter regarding council compensation and expenses.

In a memo from Cuyler to Mayor Ruane dated Jan. 29, Cuyler cited the Charter directly about compensation, which read: “Council members shall serve without compensation, but shall be entitled to receive their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties (Section 3.03).”


Sanibel City Council’s two open seats were filled Tuesday, March 3, in the local elections, as incumbent Jim Jennings and first-time City Council candidate Chauncey Goss prevailed.

First-time candidate Frances Slane fell short of her bid.

There was a total of 2,699 votes cast out of 5,572 registered voters on Sanibel.

Goss led the way with 1,280 votes or 47.42-percent, while Jennings hauled in 895 votes, which was 33.16-percent of the vote.


The rehab process continued for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife’s most famous resident, Ozzie the bald eagle, who is the male half of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam’s raptor duo.

Ozzie eventually made a full recovery and was released in June, but unfortunately, was brought back to CROW a few months later with serious and ultimately, fatal injuries. Ozzie passed away from bacteria sepsis which infected his blood.

The Sanibel City Council held its Mayor and Vice Mayor elections in its Tuesday’s (April 7) meeting, with Kevin Ruane taking on another term as Mayor and Mick Denham replacing Doug Congress as the Vice Mayor.


The Sanibel city’s Planning Commission approved permits allowing the Doc Ford’s restaurant in Sanibel to relocate a couple of miles east, across from Bailey’s on Tarpon Bay Road on April 28.

The hearing was hotly contested by residents not wanting the move, in fear of traffic gridlock, lost wildlife habitat, while others supported Doc Fords.

A collaborative effort by several Sanibel non-profit organizations is focusing on the non-target animal victims resulting from leftover fishing gear, which has been on the rise over the last several years.

Non-profit entities “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society and Refuge, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) and the Sanibel Sea School are putting out an educational initiative entitled “Clear Your Gear” to heighten awareness of the impact of left-out fishing gear, such as monofilament line and hooks can have on the environment.


The 2015 Sanibel City Council took on a familiar subject which belabors the island for four months out of the year and one in which many other City Councils have been embattled with since Sanibel became a popular tourist destination – traffic.

It’s one in which will not go away for the City Council, which opened traffic discussions Monday, June 1, in its first workshop on the subject.

The idea session discussed by the City Council took on three possible avenues to alleviate traffic during the busy season, which included technology, behavior modification and hardscape.

Two Screech Owl warning signs were erected on Sanibel Captiva Road heading in each direction, to give drivers a heads up there are low-flying owls crossing the road.

There have been 41 Screech Owl deaths reported since last October, a number Sanibel resident Doris Hardy hopes is curbed with the addition of the warning signs.


It’s been over a four-year process, but the final touches were made to the brand new Captiva Island Fire Department headquarters.

The $3 million facility made its debut to the public on Saturday, July 18, during an open house from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. A barbecue was served to the public in honor of the grand opening, with tours being held to show off the CIFD’s new digs.

Hard work in improving its ISO rating is paying off for the Sanibel Fire Department, which in turn is a good payoff for the island’s businesses and homeowners.

The SFD has consistently lowered its ISO rating since 2000, going from a six to a five in 2010, then a big leap this year from a five to a three. ISO rating is based on a scale of 1-10, with one being the absolute best and 10 having no fire department at all.


Sailing the world for the quest of adventure and competition, Colgate’s life of sailing has brought him to the peak of his nautical lifestyle, with his induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

The 80-year-old Colgate is in the NSHOF Class of 2015, along with J.J. Fetter, Paul Foerster, Meade Gougeon, Jan Gougeon and Sam Merrick. The class was inducted Oct. 4, during a weekend of ceremonies at the Bay Head Yacht Club in Bay Head, N.J.

With the new Captiva Island Fire Department station officially open for just under two months, it is already paying off dividends for the community.

With the help of the new facility and other improved services, CIFD now carries an ISO rating of three, improving from its previous four score.


The international Coastal Clean-up was held Sept. 19, hosted by the SCCF. There was a heaping piles of trash picked up around the Sanibel and Captiva beaches.

Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane withdraws from the Lee County Commissioner race, citing family reasons.

The Sanibel City Council passed a resolution last Saturday in its regular scheduled meeting, to increase residential and commercial sewer rates and connection fees by three percent, which will go into effect Oct. 1.

The residential customer rates will now be $58.20 per month and $174.60 per quarter. Depending on meter size for commercial use, the increases include: fifth-eighth meter, $33.80 monthly and $101.40 quarterly; one inch, $84.42, $253.26; one and a half inch, $168.77, $506.31; two inch, $241.90, $725.70; three inch, $539.85, $1,619.55 and four inch, $846.47, $2,539.41.

The consumption rate stands at $8.74 per 1,000 gallons. Connection fees will now cost $4,258.46.

The Sanibel City Council passed a resolution in its regular scheduled meeting, to increase residential and commercial sewer rates and connection fees by three percent, which went into effect Oct. 1.

The residential customer rates will now be $58.20 per month and $174.60 per quarter. Depending on meter size for commercial use, the increases include: fifth-eighth meter, $33.80 monthly and $101.40 quarterly; one inch, $84.42, $253.26; one and a half inch, $168.77, $506.31; two inch, $241.90, $725.70; three inch, $539.85, $1,619.55 and four inch, $846.47, $2,539.41.

The consumption rate stands at $8.74 per 1,000 gallons. Connection fees will now cost $4,258.46.

The City Council also raised beach parking from $3 to $4 an hour, with a raise in civil penalty fee from $50 to $75.


The FISH 10K run was held Oct. 17, with an all-time number of runners participating.

A new kind of dining experience will be coming to Sanibel after the Sanibel Planning Commission granted Sundial Resort and Spa at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive, to add a Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar to its facility in its Tuesday, Oct. 13, meeting.

The permit includes the new restaurant venue will function separately form the existing restaurant, but will not exceed the maximum allowed seating, which is a total of 285 seats.

Captiva Island Lee County Sheriff Office’s deputy Ed Waite officially retired his position after three years of service. Chris Lusk replaced him and is currently working as the Captiva deputy.


The busy event season started with the annual Cracker Fest and the Cast Net Rodeo, held at the Bait Box on Sanibel.

Sanibel beach goers were greeted by red and yellow warning signs on Blind Pass Beach (6497 Sanibel-Captiva Road) advising them to not swim in the Gulf.

The Florida Department of Health is advising the public to not go into the water off of Blind Pass Beach because of high levels of enterococcus bacteria, during a regularly scheduled water quality check completed Thursday, Oct. 29.

The beach later re-opened that next week after the tests came back negative.

Cayo Costa State Park just got a little bit more popular, after the Fourth Annual “Celebrate Cayo Costa State Park” Day Saturday, Nov. 7.

Mother Nature did not disappoint as the day featured one of the “best hidden jewels” in Southwest Florida, as many visitors during the day were first timers out to Cayo Costa.


The Karenia brevis algae bloom made a visit off of Sanibel Monday, Nov. 16, as one of the area’s first red tide event occurred, resulting in a modest fish kill.

The most affected marine life were bait fish and some redfish, along with some other deeper water fish. This certain red tide event was caused by just a patch of algae which potentially came from the Sarasota source.

The site of the old Captiva School – and now the Chapel By the Sea – and the Captiva Cemetery, will be known nationally after being named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors will be able to see this proof firsthand now after an unveiling ceremony of two educational panels and a champagne toast was had Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the two wondrous locations.

There was plenty of positive news coming out of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation 2015 end-of-the-year meeting Tuesday, Dec. 15, as initiatives were reached and goals were set for the upcoming year.

There were four main goals from the 2015 strategic plan reached by the SCCF, which will help nurture the foundation’s future, said Executive Director Erick Lindblad.

A 9.1-acre parcel of land located on Sanibel Island near Clam Bayou and Bowman’s Beach will now be ensured to stay preserved and not developed to house a single-family dwelling, after the piece was donated to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The land donation was made Monday, Dec. 7, by the National Investment and Development Corporation.

“We are tapped on a very regular basis by the community, regulatory committees, legislators and from people on the island, and this staff we have here, they do their job well,” Lindblad said.