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Store permit brings rules into focus

By Staff | Sep 21, 2016

A retail store chain seeking a permanent place in Sanibel could create an issue with the city that has a limit on how much retail is allowed.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 13, voted 4-1 to move forward to city council a request to allow for the establishment of a swimwear store. City council, will now decide whether to allow it, even though it surpasses the amount of square feet allowed in the city for commercial floor area.

Everything But Water, which sells women’s swimwear, wants to add Sanibel to its list of more than 90 stores.

The store would occupy the existing commercial unit at Periwinkle Place Shopping Center being vacated by Aqua Beachwear, an apparel and swimwear business that originated on Sanibel.

The store however faces two issues. The first is that the city is over the limit of 50,000 square feet permitted by the city for formula retail, and that the 2,000-square-foot store would need special approval by the council.

The second is that some members of the committee, especially Holly Smith, questioned if allowing such a store would set the wrong precedent.

“If we have a coffee shop in the island and Starbucks wants to come in, does this allowance lead to other allowances, which might not be in the spirit of the original formula,” Smith asked.

Chairman Phillip Marks said coffee shops are a different animal and added that the 50,000-square-foot rule doesn’t preclude another formula retail store, but rather adds another layer of approval.

Still, Marks added they do not want Sanibel and that particular shopping center, which is the biggest on the island, to turn into a mall.

“They get a lot of foot traffic there and it has the most stores with stable tenants. We want that unique flavor with services that we feel are Sanibel, not just another mall,” Marks said, adding that setting a limit of formula retail has boxed the city into a corner.

“The is a slippery slope created by the city council. I have a feeling once they deal with it, the issue will be sent back to us,” Marks said.

The motion passed 4-1, with Smith casting the dissenting vote. Chuck Ketteman had to leave the meeting early, while Jason Maughan was absent due to a prior commitment.

In other business, the commission voted unanimously to allow a home on Joewood Drive to be elevated above the required based flood elevation to be raised an additional 2.1 feet, or 1 foot above the maximum permitted height limitation, to reduce further flood events from reoccurring.

Photos of the home of David Winstanley showed flooded areas including that of the garage, with the car partially submerged and of the storage area, which has seen the appearance of mold, and the driveway, which is nearly unusable.

The variance was granted under the condition that site and drainage improvements don’t result in the neighbors having the same issues, that the top of the building doesn’t go above 40.2 feet above development grade, and that all exotic vegetation be removed from the site.

Also, the commission approved the proposed construction of an addition to a boat dock and the new installation of a boat lift to encroach within the 15 foot minimum setback, with the boat lift installation to extend into the canal greater than the maximum allowed 20 percent of the waterway’s width.