Council OKs 3 ordinances, postpones one
The Sanibel City Council approved three ordinances at its recent meeting, including one related to using gender neutral language and another allowing for dogs at food service establishments.
On April 2, the council voted unanimously 5-0 to amend the Sanibel Code to modify masculine-feminine language to gender neutral pronouns, like chairman to chairperson, and policeman or policewoman to police officer, and to permit patrons’ dogs at designated outdoor sections of food establishments via a permitting process through the city.
Councilmembers also voted 5-0 to amend the city’s general employees retirement plan to remove a requirement that one trustee be a department director, as well as tabled a vote on a fourth ordinance that proposed amending the Code to prohibit mopeds and certain bicycles on the shared use path system.
Prior to the vote, Mayor Kevin Ruane reiterated that the gender neutral language ordinance was a recommendation by the committee that took part in the city’s charter review process last year.
“This isn’t enhancing any rights within a gender. I don’t want the community to think we’re changing rights,” he said. “It’s just simple grammatical changes (in wording), nothing more nothing less.”
Councilmember Holly Smith, who brought forward the dog ordinance, spoke before its vote.
“There are some establishments that do wish, and they are outdoor dining facilities, that would like to allow dogs,” she said, noting that there would be a registration process for interested businesses.
Smith explained that there is currently one line in the Code that prohibits dogs from being within a certain proximity of food being served, so venues with outside porches and patios cannot permit them. She added that the amendment would only roll back the regulations for the approved outside areas.
“Now, you can’t even walk fiddo in front of a grocery store,” Smith said.
An ordinance to prohibit motorized devices, including mopeds, scooters and electric bicycles, on the SUP also had its second reading at the meeting. City attorney John Agnew, who helped to draft the language, explained that human-powered devices only are currently allowed on the path by state law.
He explained that the proposal was a move against any preemption at the state level.
“So we would have something on the books,” Agnew said.
Vice Mayor Mick Denham originally had brought forward the issue.
“I’m happy with the ordinance as written,” he said. “I don’t recommend any changes.”
During public comment, several people spoke out against the ordinance on the grounds it included “bicycles.” They spoke to the merits of pedal-assist bikes and how they have changed their lives, and how trying to ride one on the roads next to motor vehicles was a concern and possible safety issue.
“I think I should have use of this entire island, and the only way I can do that is to have pedal assist,” one woman said, adding that her husband also relies on a pedal assist bicycle to get around.
A representative from the Sanibel Bicycle Club reported that he agreed with the language banning electric mopeds and scooters, but asked that the council not treat e-bikes as “black and white.”
Billy Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Rentals, explained that there are three classes of pedal-assist bikes, with the lowest tier having no throttle option. He suggested that the city only allow the first class.
Following some additional discussion and questions, and a few different motions being made and withdrawn, the council voted 5-0 to rework the ordinance and bring it back at a future meeting.
“Let’s get this right once so we don’t make this any more complicated than it has to be,” Ruane said.
Also at the meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously on changes to the insurance coverage in relation to BIG ARTS and its new building. They approved discontinuing the insurance for flood, wind and property and being responsible for the deductibles on the risk policy purchased by BIG ARTS.
In addition, Natural Resources Director James Evans provided a water quality update.
He reported that Lake Okeechobee dropped about one-quarter of a foot in the last two weeks and it is about two feet lower than the same time last year. Over the last 24 hours, inflows were at 344 cubic feet per second and outflows were at 4,245 cfs, which is normal because the water is needed for irrigation.
“So water’s leaving over 12 times faster than it is coming in,” Evans said.
Fifty-nine percent of the water was going south, 37 percent to the west and 4 percent to the east.
“That’s pretty typical for the dry season,” he said.
James added that the pulse release schedule started on March 23 was set to end on April 5.
While there has been no indication of red tide for the past two to three months, Sanibel has been experiencing an accumulation of red drift algae. Evans noted that Fort Myers Beach has also.
He reported that the city kick off its public comment campaign on the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, or LOSOM. Evans encouraged the public to submit their comment letters.
“We have until April 22,” he said.
IN OTHER NEWS
– Assistant City Engineer Sandra Larsen was recognized with a reception and proclamation at the meeting for her 30 years of service to the city. She is scheduled to retire at the end of April.
In saying a few words to the audience, Larsen quoted Marc Anthony.
“If you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life,” she said. “That pretty much sums up my tenure here.”
– Lori Newmeyer, with the Sanibel Police Department, was honored as the Employee of the Quarter.
– The city read a proclamation recognizing April 10 as Gopher Tortoise Day.
– The council voted 5-0 to accept the resignation of Merrell Rushworth from the Sanibel Historical Preservation Committee.