Council recommends plastic alternatives, plans assessment hearings
The Sanibel City Council showed support for reducing plastic litter on the island, as well as set public hearings to consider next year’s solid waste and Shell Harbor-Sanibel Estates dredging assessments.
At the July 16 meeting, the council voted 4-0 to approve a resolution that outlined its support and encouragement for individuals and businesses to voluntarily use environmentally-friendly alternatives over disposal plastic bags, such as bags made from paper, cloth, canvas and other natural products.
Councilmember Jason Maughan was absent from the meeting.
Prior to the vote, Councilmember Holly Smith explained that the city cannot adopt a plastic bag ban because of a preemptive move by the state. Approving a ban could open the door to legal action.
“I am certainly in support of this,” she said of the proposed resolution.
Councilmember Richard Johnson agreed.
“We can’t do an outright ban without putting our community at risk for legal fees and such,” he said. “But I do believe it’s important that we, as a council, provide some direction.”
“This is a recommendation for businesses and even citizens,” Johnson added.
Also at the meeting, the council voted 4-0 to schedule a public hearing to adopt the 2019-2020 assessment for the collection and the disposal of solid waste, recyclables and horticultural waste. The proposed rate is $304.72 for an estimated 3,971 dwelling units and $402.04 for another 42 units.
It also voted 4-0 to set a public hearing to consider the adoption of the 2019-2020 assessment on properties within the Shell Harbor and Sanibel Estates canal area dredging district. The proposal states that the Sanibel Marina will pay $18,000, the city will cover $14,850 and residential properties will pay $12,150. In addition, a one-time assessment of $53,852 is being proposed for the marina to equal out excess payments previously made by the city and residential properties.
Both hearings will take place at a special meeting on Aug. 20 at 9:10 a.m. in council chambers.
Prior to the vote on the dredging assessment, attorney Beverly Grady presented the council members with a letter from her client, the Sanibel Marina, requesting the elimination of the one-time charge.
In speaking before the dais, she argued that the $53,852 assessment is an illegal tax.
“Special assessments require their own conditions,” Grady said.
In the letter and before the council, she argued that it does not meet the requirements.
Mayor Kevin Ruane explained that while he could understand the point of view, he wished any concerns had been brought forward earlier. He noted that all parties involved had agreed to what was outlined in the proposal, including a $20 to $40 assessment increase for the Shell Harbor units.
The president of the Shell Harbor Property Owners Association, who was in attendance for the meeting, also expressed frustration before those present over the marina’s last-minute letter.
After some discussion among the dais, and clarification from the city attorney that voting on the resolution before them only set the public hearing date, the council members cast their vote.
Ruane noted that he would work with the marina to try and resolve the issue before Aug. 20.
Also during the meeting, Smith provided an update on short-term rentals on Sanibel.
“We do have a growing issue on this island of noncompliance,” she said, adding that residential properties are not adhering to the 28-day minimum stay requirement. “Some are even less than a week. There have been nightly rentals.”
Smith reported that she is working with staff to look at maybe bringing in a company to track the rentals and oversee compliance, plus working on possible ordinance language with the city attorney.
“We would like to bring something back to council at the August meeting,” she said.
Others on the council thanked Smith for her work on the issue.
“I see this as a significant threat to our way of life here on the island,” Johnson said.
Also at the meeting, two subjects of continued discussion – gas-powered leaf blowers and motorized scooters and bicycles on the city’s Shared Use Path – were tabled until the full council is present.
IN OTHER NEWS
– The council voted 4-0 to approve an agreement between the city and the Lee County School Board for a school resource officer from Aug. 1 through July 31 for $50,000.
– Community Services Department Director Keith Williams reported that the Donax Rehabilitation Project remains on schedule and on budget. Through direct owner purchases of some items, which was proposed at a prior meeting and given the green light, the city has saved $238,000 in state sales tax.
n Natural Resources Department Director James Evans provided an update on the Blind Pass Inlet Management Plan. He reported that the draft plan, created from the study, has been completed.
“There are a number of different alternatives within that plan that I’m very comfortable with,” Evans said.
He noted that the Lee County Board of County Commissioners is expected to consider the plan for approval at its second meeting in August; it will be presented to the Sanibel council in August.