City to allow BIG ARTS, possibly others to sell alcohol
The Sanibel City Council voted to approve an ordinance that allows performing arts centers and live performance theaters to sell alcohol without also being required to sell food.
The council voted 4-0 on Feb. 6 in favor of the change, which exempts the eligible facilities from a written requirement within the city’s code that venues must sell food in order to sell alcohol on site. Councilman Jason Maughan, who absent from the meeting due to a death in the family, did not vote.
The proposal behind Ordinance 18-001 was brought forward by BIG ARTS Sanibel Island. After receiving approval for a liquor license by the state, the organization applied to amend the code, believing that the change would help to increase revenue and improve the quality of drinks served.
Prior to the vote, the floor was opened to public comment. One man questioned if the amendment would be applicable to other venues outside of BIG ARTS, such at The Community House.
“BIG ARTS obviously intended for it to apply to them,” City Attorney Ken Cuyler said.
He emphasized that the council was voting on the amendment and nothing else.
“Today you’re not making the decision of who does or who doesn’t fall under it,” Cuyler said.
Facilities interested in serving alcohol at on-site events and believe that they fall within the definition of “performing arts centers” and “live performance theaters” have to apply to the city for approval.
Like BIG ARTS, they will also have to qualify for state licensing and permitting.
Also at the meeting, a representative from the Sanibel Bicycle Club spoke.
Member Tom Sharbaugh, speaking on behalf of the club, urged the council to continue and complete the ongoing project of improving and updating traffic control markings on the shared-use pathways.
“We’d like to ask council to keep this issue in their minds,” he said.
According to Sharbaugh, the project was initiated in 2016 and progressed the first year.
“Last year we saw work slow down,” he said.
Sharbaugh reported that key intersections are still incomplete.
“There are some pressing reasons why this work needs to get accomplished as soon as possible,” he said.
Mayor Kevin Ruane responded, acknowledging that progress on the project has slowed. He explained that the city needs to make sure the markings are consistent and in accordance with state regulations.
“We’re trying to do this correctly,” Ruane said. “We want to make sure we’re doing this right.”
He ventured that the slow down is not related to a lack of money.
“I don’t think the funds are the obstacle at this point,” Ruane said. “It’s making sure we do it correctly.”
Also during the meeting, the city’s Employee of the First Quarter was recognized. Audley “Jermaine” Sears, who is employed with the Sanibel Recreation Department, received the distinction.
The council proclaimed Jan. 19 as Florida Arbor Day, with a celebration planned at The Sanibel School. In addition, it was announced that Sanibel earned the recognition of a 2017 Tree City USA from the Arbor Day Foundation. Members of the city’s Vegetation Committee accepted the honor.
Short-term vacation rentals
Councilwoman Holly Smith and Vice Mayor Mick Denham provided an update on their recent trip to Tallahassee to meet with legislators over Senate Bill 1400. Called the Florida Vacation Rental Act, it preempts regulation and control of vacation rentals to the state, taking it away from local government.
Smith reported that SB 1400 has gone from a “watch” situation to committee hearings.
“The new bill did include the local law ordinances – we are grandfathered in under that clause,” she said of Sanibel, adding that many other municipalities that are not eligible are still vulnerable.
Its counterpart, House Bill 773, had yet to be introduced as of Feb. 6.
Denham noted that Rep. Matt Caldwell, District 79, introduces the bills in the House.
“He controls the destiny of that bill,” he said, adding that Caldwall likes Sanibel.
Smith explained that each bill has to go through three committee hearings.
“This type of bill has been introduced every year for about the last four years,” she said.
Last month, the city council voted unanimously to prepare a resolution opposing SB 1400. On Feb. 6, it voted 4-0 to add HB 773 and any bills of similar aim into the language of the original resolution.
City Manager Judie Zimomra provided council with an update on the post-Irma situation.
“As of last week, we have completed the canal cleanup,” she said, adding that the city is continuing to work on vegetation restoration on public grounds.
On Feb. 2, the city received written authorization from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for debris removal from private streets.
Zimomra reported that the focus now is on preparing for next season, which starts in June.
“We’re looking for ways to replenish our (disaster emergency) reserves,” she said.
Zimomra explained that FEMA has established an emergency fund, and there are options available through the Florida League of Cities. She added that the city has no current open lines of credit.
“Our consultants and finance director are looking at that – as well as bank loans and long-term loans,” Zimomra said. “We want to be certain we know the costs of each option.”
Staff expects to have the information compiled and ready for discussion at the next meeting.
James Evans, director of the city’s Natural Resources Department, reported that water elevations are lower than last year, but higher than 2016. Dry season flows are coming from Lake Okeechobee.
“We’re starting to see some improving conditions,” he said, citing the bay and beaches.
However, green algae has been observed during low tide.
“It indicates nutrients in the system,” Evans said, adding that they stem from years of discharges.
Staff has also noticed some red algae, as well as isolated fish kills.
“Very small amounts, close to normal conditions,” he said. “It wouldn’t be considered a bloom.”
– City council voted 4-0 to pull from the agenda a resolution for a request for an entertainment license at the Jac Island Grille and Rum Bar, at 1223 Periwinkle Way. The council agreed that there was no urgency to discuss the matter and it could be handled next month as there is a stop order on the project.
– City council voted 4-0 to approve the Sanibel Congregational Church’s request to hold the 2018 Music Festival on March 3, 6, 10, 13, 20, 24 and 27.
– City council voted 4-0 to approve an agreement with Sanibel Sports to hold seasons for soccer, flag football and baseball/lacrosse for two years.
– City council voted 4-0 to approve the continued funding of the Alligator Education coloring book in the amount of $1,100.
The next Sanibel City Council meeting is March 3 at 9 a.m. at City Hall, at 800 Dunlop Road.