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CCP goes over fourth, final set of Code concerns

By Staff | Mar 19, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Captiva Community Panel Member Jay Brown discusses Captiva Code issues related to buildings, signs and lights on the island with the rest of the panel during the March 12 meeting.

The Captiva Community Panel dived into discussing how to address the fourth and final category of issues raised by islanders as part of its process for updating the Captiva Code during its meeting.

On March 12, the panel tackled the topics under “buildings, signs and lights.”

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 focused on one category every month, with the aim of finishing up their discussions in March.

At the recent meeting, the panel covered dark skies, the proliferation of “vacation rental” signs, residences rented as corporate retreats, the lear-cutting of lots, architectural and landscape guidelines, and flat roofs defeating the new building heights.

After the panel’s discussion on each, the public had the opportunity to provide input.

For dark skies, President David Mintz outlined the regulations for Sanibel and Upper Captiva. He added that the policy for Upper Captiva has already been adopted by the county for that island.

“I compared the two. All things being equal, I didn’t see much of a difference,” Mintz said, noting that Sanibel does have more permitting, enforcement and specifications tied into its regulations though.

“What the Upper Captiva one tends to do, or does do, is set some standards for lights that are permitted,” he said, adding that they have to point downward and be shielded or encased.

Mintz also pointed out that Upper Captiva’s policy must be followed within five years of its adoption, giving time for property owners to transition to the new rules, or with new development permits.

Several on the panel raised safety concerns if Captiva chose to go dark.

Panel Member Ante Baumgarten explained that she is a cyclist and with no street lights, the existing lights help. Secretary Mike Mullins said he relies on lights for security and still has trespassers.

“We are pretty dark out here,” Panel Member Rene Miville said.

He suggested that people just need to point their sign lights downward.

“I don’t think, at this point, we’re lit up a lot,” Miville said.

One resident in attendance explained that it is a particular issue in the Village due to the close proximity of the homes. Another noted that owls keep the rodents in check and do not like lights.

“I think having stricter regulations and darker skies would be good,” Linda Laird said.

Following some more discussion, the panel agreed to draft a Code provision recommending what property owners should do – basically, laying out guidelines – for voluntarily compliance.

“If you violate, nothing happens,” Mintz said.

He added that it may eliminate the problem over time and the panel can re-evaluate it.

On the proliferation of “vacation rental” signs, Mintz explained that the island has an existing ordinance, which permits one “identifying” address sign per home that is no larger than 2 square feet for those with less than 100 feet of front linear road and no larger than 4 square feet for others.

In addition, homes are permitted one temporary sign, such as for rent or sale.

“It’s clear to me that our sign ordinance is not working,” he said. “Residents do not know the rules, sign makers do not know. Our signs are completely out of compliance with the rules.”

Mintz noted that some homes have a name sign and a separate numeral address sign, along with a rental sign, for sale sign and a VRBO sign. In addition, some have a container for related paperwork.

“We have some houses that have four or five signs in front,” he said.

After some discussion, the panel found that the identifying signs are not really the issue.

“Temporary signage is the eye sore,” Panel Member Bob Walter said.

Resident Joan Sherman questioned if her security camera and no trespassing signs are considered temporary signage and if she would have to take them down. Lee County staffer Adam Mendez, who was present for the meeting, explained that the signs are exempt, along with ADT signs and such.

After further discussion, the panel decided to draft language focused on the temporary signage, while updating the language on the identifying signs to make it more reasonable, like 4 or 6 feet for all.

For residences rented as corporate retreats, Mintz explained that some Gold Coast properties are advertised as hotels and corporate retreats online and at conferences, despite being in a residential zone where such commercial activity is prohibited. He noted that it is not big families occupying them.

“It’s already regulated, the question is what do we do about it?” Mintz asked.

After much back-and-forth discussion, the panel agreed that if it was to draft language regarding violations it would have no way to enforce it. Plus, the county already has something in place.

Instead, it agreed to identify the properties in violation and notify the county.

On the topics of clear-cutting of lots, architectural and landscape guidelines, and flat roofs defeating new building heights, it was determined there are no issues so the panel did not take any action.

At the April meeting, the panel will review Depew’s Plan and Code issues.