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Planning commission approves variances

By Staff | Jun 22, 2016

After much discussion, the City of Sanibel Planning Commission approved a variance for the construction of a boat dock and lift for a property at 720 Periwinkle Way last week.

Ben Pople, a planner with the City of Sanibel, said it’s a continuation of a hearing heard on Oct. 13, 2015 with a similar variation request made for a finger pier from the property into the canal with a boat lift adjacent to the pier. He said the applicant has provided a revised dock layout that moves the dock somewhat away from the north easterly property line.

“Staff notes this plan is an improvement from the earlier one; however there is still a significant encroachment on the easterly side, which does not lead staff to outright support the application,” Pople said.

The revised dock layout plan included a shift further toward the center of the property by approximately one foot and the encroachment by the westerly marginal dock projection into the 15-foot setback from the extended side property line has been eliminated.

Pople said removing the encroachment into the westerly side setback from the property line would increase staff support. He said centering the finger pier and boat lift on the frontage would bring actual support of the application.

“If there’s a practical reason why that couldn’t be accomplished, it hasn’t been included in the presentation to this point,” he said.

Sean Hearn with Stokes Marine, who was representing the applicant, said the main reason they offset the pier and boat lift on the property is because as someone travels down the canal it bends and hooks either to the right or left.

According to city documents “the canal that serves the east side of Golden Olive Court and the west side of Paper Fig Court slightly curves and widens as it extends to and terminates at the subject property. Because of this, the seawall is not perpendicular to the view down the length of the canal.”

“The boat lift is actually lined up pretty much center to the entrance of the canal, so from an ease of navigation standpoint that was pretty much how we lined this up, so they didn’t have to swing way out and come back in. They can simply pull straight in,” Hearn said.

Another consideration stemmed from the age of the seawall. Hearn said they try not to touch older seawalls due to the fear of damage it might cause in the future.

“The main reason it is offset is to line it up with the seawall and not have to go through something like this again if the seawall were to fall over,” he said.

The finger pier, Hearn said is pretty close to center. He said if they were to move the finger pier and boat lift to center it would have to be moved over about 10 feet.

Planning Director Jimmy Jordan said the cantilever dock is not supporting the seawall. The cantilever portion can be removed without damaging the structure.

Hearn said the cantilever dock is pretty old and the caps are already in rough shape. He said they would have to cut one-foot, by one-foot to remove it, which would cost $3,000 to $4,000.

“We are just implementing the code here. We are not going to make a judgement on the applicant itself. In our opinion there are some things that could be done to mitigate the variance to bring it closer to conformance,” Jordan said.

A few of the commissioners said if the neighbors are satisfied with the proposal, they think they should approve the variance.

Pople said if the commissioners were going to approve the variances, staff recommends five conditions.

The first is limiting the setback relief to what is shown on the site plan, so the boat lift can be constructed within the typical setback within five inches of the extended northeasterly property line. Pople said the finger pier should be within approximately 7 feet of the northeasterly line and approximately 12 feet shown on the plan.

The second deals with any boat alongside the dock, or elevated on the boat lift shall not project over an extended side property line.

The third, conical piling caps, or other devices should not prevent, or interfere with the ability of birds, or other wildlife to perch or rest shall not be allowed.

Fourth, prior to the issue of a completion certificate a built survey should be provided to demonstrate the dock is presented as proposed.

The fifth condition is the construction of the dock and lift should otherwise comply with all other applicable development code requirements.

Hearn said he was happy to comply with the conditions.

The commission also approved a variance for the installation of a boat lift to be added to an existing boat dock and “extend at a distance greater than the maximum allowed 30 feet waterward of the mean high water line” on Bay Drive. The variance was brought before the commission because of the presence of mangroves.

“I think over the last three or four years there has been a real effort to protect the mangroves,” Chairman Philip Marks said. “There are other cities that have water positions for boats and they just hack away the vegetation, so everyone has a nice clear view. They don’t take the fact that the mangroves are one of our foundations for the island. I applaud the applicants going through this and doing what they can to promote and protect the mangroves.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.