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Panel decides what to do with first set of Code concerns

By Staff | Dec 14, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI Captiva Community Panel Member Mike Lanigan discusses Captiva Code issues related to the protection of the island's natural resources with the rest of the panel at the Dec. 11 meeting.

At its recent meeting, the Captiva Community Panel dived into discussing how to address the first of four categories of issues raised by islanders as part of its process for updating the Captiva Code.

On Dec. 11, the panel tackled the topics listed under “protection of natural resources.”

Toward the start of the discussion, Lee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Sawicki advised the panel to heed the fact that new ordinances or regulations would apply island-wide – not just to visitors.

“Any rules will apply to everyone,” he said.

Earlier this year, the panel hosted four public workshops and put out an online survey to gather feedback from property and business owners on a range of potential island-related concerns. The list was later cut down by eliminating topics that involved preemptive legislation, already had laws or regulations in place to address them, ranked lowest on the priority list for the public, and so on.

In November, panel consultant Max Forgey presented his completed research, which entailed examining the 31 pared-down issues and compiling a report on how similar communities dealt with, prohibited or limited them, as well as checking for any Lee County regulations already in place.

In his final report, Forgey divided the 31 topics into four categories: protection of natural resources; protection of community resources; clean air and water protections; and buildings, signs and lights. The panel will focus on one category each month, with the aim of finishing up the discussions in March.

Dune vegetation protection, plastic straws on beaches, beach paraphernalia removal at night, beach cleanup overall, large tents and canopies on the beach, bayfront vegetation buffers, mangrove setbacks and variances, and mangrove mitigation on Captiva were all covered during the December meeting.

After the panel’s discussion of each, the public had an opportunity to provide its input.

For dunes vegetation protection, President David Mintz explained that the debate centered around whether to remain with the existing Lee County Code language or go stricter. For instance, the city of Cocoa Beach does not permit people to walk, traverse, sit, stand or lay on, over or across its dunes.

During the discussion, the panel agreed that stronger wording than the county’s prohibition of the “destruction or harming” of dunes was needed, but perhaps not as strict as what Cocoa Beach has in place. Concerns were voiced about youth being cited for retrieving balls that landed on the dunes.

“Do we want to ban businesses from serving plastic straws?” Mintz asked of the next issue.

Panel Member Mike Lanigan questioned how a plastic straw ban – like Sanibel passed earlier this year – might impact businesses. He asked Sandy Stilwell, the owner of several island restaurants who was in attendance at the meeting, to provide some insight and thoughts before he made his decision.

“I already stopped doing that months ago when it was brought up,” she said of plastic straws.

She acknowledged that paper straws are “four times the cost,” but added that she has been working toward training her staff not to automatically provide one with a drink – to wait for a customer to ask.

Others in audience voiced support for prohibiting plastic straws.

Mintz noted that during a recent meeting with Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais and Lee County Department of Community Development Director David Loveland, the ban came up in their talks.

“They were actually supportive of it,” he said.

Mintz added that the county questioned whether a ban should apply to all the barrier islands.

Following the discussion, the panel decided to have language drafted that would prohibit businesses from using plastic straws, but exclude private residences from the rule to allow them to use them.

As for beach paraphernalia at night, the county currently requires that it be removed between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. from May through October – during sea turtle nesting season. The debate centered around whether to extend the rule year-round, like Sanibel has, in regards to beach furniture and equipment.

Panel Member Bob Walter noted that it goes beyond items simply being left out.

“People take their chairs and throw them in the dunes,” he said, adding that toys like shovels and buckets that families do not want to carry back at the end of the day also end up in the pile.

“It’s crazy,” Walter said.

Mintz, speaking on behalf the Villages, agreed.

“There’s chairs left overnight – and for days,” he said.

Some on the panel raised concerns about the Coastal Construction Control Line being used as the boundary line, especially with private beachfront, and suggested using seaward of the dunes instead.

The panel decided to extend the language to require the removal of unoccupied paraphernalia seaward of the dunes at night year-round, but excluded instances when it is monitored, such as at the resorts.

For beach cleanup overall, Mintz explained that the county generally prohibits littering on public places, including beaches. While the language covers Alison Hagerup Beach Park, Turner Beach Park and 100 feet at end of Andy Rosse Lane, he questioned the island’s other non-park public spaces.

“Do we need to make it clear that there’s no littering on any of the beaches?” he asked.

Sawicki noted that he interprets the ordinance as applicable to all the beaches.

“I feel like the way it’s written now, I would feel confident going into court,” he said in reference to writing a littering citation for someone.

The panel decided to ask the county to confirm that the language is applicable to all of the island’s beaches, not just “public parks.” If not, they agreed to have it updated to include the word “all.”

The subject of large tents and canopies on the beach raised mixed responses of both support and opposition from the panel and those in attendance. Lanigan explained that the heart of issue was not necessarily people using them, it was beach-goers connecting 10-by-10 canopies to form camps.

Many agreed that such cases of “beach sprawl” tended to stay in place for several days.

Lanigan asked if linking canopies changed the users’ behavior and impeded on other beach visitors.

“I think it does,” Lanigan said, adding that it can lend itself to a “king of the castle” behavior.

Vice President Mike Borris disagreed, noting that it happens in the summer near him.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “I don’t see a difference in behavior.”

One audience member pointed out that putting in place the regulation requiring the removal of all beach paraphernalia at night year-round may help curb the habit because beach-goers will not want to have to break down multiple tents at the end of the day and drag them away to do it all over again.

“I think taking it away at night could change that,” he said.

Another woman explained that her family needs shade from a canopy as a break from the sun.

“It seems like prohibiting the use of these things is going to cause a lot of people problems,” Lanigan said.

The panel addressed bayfront vegetation buffers, mangrove setbacks and variances, and mangrove mitigation at once. When property owners want to remove mangroves, they purchase credits from the Little Pine Island Mitigation Bank and the funds pay for mangrove restoration on Little Pine Island.

“Captiva mangroves get replaced, so to speak, on Pine Island,” Mintz said. “As opposed to using it (funding) for ourselves to fortify this island against future sea level rise and other things.”

As part of Forgey’s completed report, panel consultant David Depew made two recommendations relating to the Captiva Plan. He suggested that the county require notification to the panel for permits requiring the removal of mangroves – it is currently does not. Depew also suggested that the county provide the panel with copies of dredge and fill requests impacting uplands, wetlands or submerged lands on or within 500 feet of the high tide demarcation.

Following some side discussion, the panel decided to revisit the mitigation issue. It also directed Administrator Ken Gooderham to speak with the county about Depew’s recommendations.