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Sanibel Planning Commission backs code changes on elevated pools, floodplain management

By Staff | Feb 27, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Sanibel Planning Commissioner Karen Storjohann directs a question to city planner Josh Ooyman, with the Sanibel Planning Department, during a discussion of the floodplain management ordinance at the board's Feb. 27 meeting.

The Sanibel Planning Commission unanimously supported two ordinances to amend the city codes relating to elevated swimming pools and floodplain management during its recent meeting.

Today, the commissioners voted 6-0 to recommend to the Sanibel City Council the adoption of both proposals; the seven-member board is still down one following John Talmage’s resignation.

One code currently states that any swimming pool elevated higher than 7 feet above the ground cannot be more than 6 inches above the base flood elevation established by the Federal Flood Insurance Rate Map or required by the Florida Building Code, whichever is higher. Where the base flood elevation applies to the lowest horizontal structural member of a habitable structure, rather than the lowest floor, the height of the swimming pool deck cannot be higher than 2 feet above the base flood elevation.

The proposed ordinance would amend the code to read as “any swimming pool elevated higher than 3 feet, 6 inches above the ground cannot be higher than the lowest floor of the associated structure. For the purpose of this height limit, a mid-level entry or other area devoted only to building access shall not be considered the lowest floor, even if constructed above the base flood elevation.”

The second proposal is the result of city staffers working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to develop a new floodplain management ordinance. It is based on a model the DEM developed, which meets the National Flood Insurance Program requirements, is consistent with the Florida Building Code and has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Staff noted that the approval and adoption of a revised ordinance, in accordance with the DEM, is mandatory to preserve the city’s status and rating as a continuing participant in the NFIP’s Community Rating System, which benefits residents with a 25 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.

The ordinances will next go before the Sanibel City Council for review.

Elevated swimming pools

City planner Benjamin Pople, with the Sanibel Planning Department, presented the ordinance at the meeting. He explained that in 2006, the city established standards for elevated swimming pools.

“(This is) a result of several applications,” Pople said of the ordinance.

Since the adoption of the standards, the city has received about 32 applications. Four of them included a variance to exceed the pool height limit stipulated in the code, but all four were approved by the planning commission so that the pool deck could be elevated relative to the base floor of the residence.

Staff found that current procedures, design guidelines and landscaping requirements provide adequate standards and the pool height limits were overly restrictive in not allowing decks to be elevated.

So staff prepared an amendment to the code and presented it before the Land Development Code Review Subcommittee in November, which supported it. However, after further review of the draft language, staff identified the need for further clarifications and made the adjustments, Pople said.

The final revised ordinance was presented to the planning commission.

“The staff has effectively made two changes,” he said.

The changes were from “7 feet” to “3 feet, 6 inches” and the switch to “lowest floor.”

“Staff believes it is still consistent with what was discussed at the subcommittee,” Pople said.

Commissioner and Chair Philip Marks described the proposed changes as more understandable and streamlined for property owners.

“We’re not loosening everything up,” he said.

Commissioner and Vice Chair Dirk deWerf also voiced support.

“I feel good about us coming to this point,” he said. “This is an issue we’ve talked about more than one time.”

Floodplain management

City planner Josh Ooyman, with the Sanibel Planning Department, presented the ordinance in conjunction with city building official Harold Law, from the Sanibel Building Department.

Ooyman explained that the NFIP enables property owners of participating communities to buy flood insurance protection from the government. The city has been a participant since 1979 due to its adoption and enforcement of regulations that manage and reduce future flood risks to new construction.

He reported for the commission that there are 7,729 NFIP policies on Sanibel, with $1.83 billion total insured and $9.3 million written premiums, as well as the 25 percent discount on flood insurance.

Ooyman noted that for the first time ever, the current Florida Building Code contains mandatory provisions for buildings and structures within flood hazard areas that meet or exceed the NFIP minimum requirements for buildings and structures. The FBC governs the design and construction of buildings, so the model floodplain ordinance created by the DEM was coordinated with the FBC.

He added that the ordinance before the commission is a blend of existing Sanibel flood regulations and current flood design standards of the FBC, allowing the city to continue to participate in the NFIP.

“It proposes no significant change to the existing ordinances on Sanibel,” Ooyman said.

“Adoption is mandatory to continue participation in the NFIP,” he added.

The DEM has already reviewed and approved the city’s draft ordinance.

Commissioner Chuck Ketteman voiced support for it.

“This is simply to maintain where we are with that national flood insurance coverage,” he said.

Commissioner Richard Johnson agreed.

“This simply brings us into alignment with all three legal requirements,” he said.

At the start of the meeting, resident Wil Compton presented the commissioners with two, large plastic containers filled with water – and algae – he collected from the back bay. An avid paddleboarder, Compton said there is a problem and samples had been provided to the Natural Resources Department.

“What I see just brings me to tears,” he said.

“There’s no fish,” Compton said. “There are very few birds because there are no fish.”

Later in the meeting, the commission recessed and convened for each of the Below Market Housing Review Subcommittee, Capital Improvement Review Subcommittee, Land Development Code Review Subcommittee and Permitting Process Review Subcommittee to approve minutes and annual reports.

In other news

n The commission unanimously endorsed the 2018 proposed goals for the board and tasks for the Sanibel Planning Department.

The commission’s goals consist of: redevelopment of non-conforming properties outside of the Resort Housing District and Commercial District; updating best practices for protecting Sanibel’s beach environment as it relates to guided tour operations; and reviewing sign standards in terms of compliance with the recent Supreme Court ruling on freedom of speech and religion.

The department’s tasks consists of: upgrading permitting software; mitigation stands and measures for base flood elevation; digitization of planning documents; digitized zoning maps; review requirements for the permitting of beach fires; incidental dining in terms of ancillary seating for retail food uses and establishments; Shared Use Path Master Plan update; height standards for sloped roof for three-story multi-family buildings outside of the Resort Housing District; and notification to adjacent property owners for development permits.

n Code Enforcement handled 21 cases in December, of which six remained active as of Jan. 1.