Council approves San-Cap Road project contract
The Sanibel City Council selected a contractor bid for the Sanibel-Captiva Road Shore Protection Project and received updates on the city’s Coyote Management Plan and the implementation of the new short-term rental legislation during its recent meeting.
On Feb. 4, the council voted unanimously 5-0 to award the project on the west end of the island to Benton & Sons Construction Company in the amount of $1,307,410. It also approved the receipt of a $1,398,450 grant from the Lee County Tourism Development Council to pay for most of the work.
“The project is going to be paid for in full using tax dollars,” Natural Resources Director James Evans said, noting that the TDC did not feel a guardrail associated with the project qualified for the funds.
He explained that the city received four bids on the project, with Benton & Sons coming in as the lowest. Contractors V & H Construction, Zep Construction, and Manhattan Road & Bridge Company also submitted bids. Both staff and the city’s firm for the project, Humiston and Moore Engineers, recommended that council approve the contract for Benton & Sons.
The project will include the addition of a larger, armor stone layer along an existing buried revetment and the installation of a Truline system – one of two ways the city bidded out the project – along with the creation of a new soft shoreline through sand placement and dune restoration with new vegetation.
A new innovation in seawall, bulkhead and retaining wall construction, the Truline system combines steel, concrete and vinyl materials into one wall system. According to its Website, the wall is protected long-term by the dual-interlocking vinyl form, which encases or protects the concrete and steel rebar.
Evans reported that construction is scheduled to start the first week of March.
The aim is to have the project completed by May, which is the start of sea turtle nesting season.
Also at the meeting, Evans provided an update on the temporary sandbags recently set up.
“The temporary measures have been working very well. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “We haven’t really lost any additional sand since we put that structure in place.”
COYOTE MANAGEMENT PLAN
Following the council’s request for regular updates on the work being done on the city’s Coyote Management Plan, staff provided the council members with an overview of its latest moves.
Natural Resources Deputy Director Holly Milbrandt explained that over the last month, staff has identified and been pursuing several initiatives, which represent a broader set of categories. She noted that information on coyote Best Management Practices and safety was added to the city Website.
Upon being asked, the council voted to relocate the information to the top of the site.
Milbrandt also reported that staff has been soliciting research proposals, that rely on updated technology, to determine the current coyote status on the island. They contacted the researcher Sanibel used for its 2015 report, along with state and federal wildlife agencies to gain additional data.
“We asked them about any current technology we could use immediately on Sanibel,” she added.
Staff submitted public records requests to the Carolina communities that rely on culling to manage coyote populations, plus are gathering any information available online about those programs.
Milbrandt continued that staff identified a need to handle coyotes based on department. Specifically, police would see to threats to the public and pets, and Natural Resources would focus on wildlife. Evans added that the departments will work together on coyotes, despite the split of responsibilities.
Milbrandt also reported that four new trail cameras have been deployed to gather data on the coyote population, and that residents with photos and videos are encouraged to submit those to the city. Other initiatives include a coyote tracking Website, community engagement efforts and educational events.
Following some brief questioning from council, Evans explained that property owners currently can contact a wildlife trapper on their own and have any “nuisance” coyote removed from their land.
“They could do that today,” he said.
Council directed staff to proceed with their work and continue to provide updates.
Community Services Director Keith Williams provided the council with an update on the city’s new short-term rental regulation, including its implementation and activity. He reported that 1,842 advisory letters and applications have been sent to existing Business Tax Receipt holders for rental properties.
He continued that the city has received about 200 inquiries in response and that staff are working to address their questions. Approximately 50 applications have been returned and are under review.
Williams also reported that the city has added one full-time code enforcement officer to assist with handling the program and the city’s compliance-tracking vendor is expected to go live in March.
Prior to council discussing the subject, several in the audience spoke during public comment.
Some asked for a public notice to be sent to all property owners on Sanibel which will be a future step in phasing in the program while others took issue with the application and associated affidavit’s language not matching up with, or going further than, what was outlined in the approved ordinance.
Some identified themselves as owners of rental properties with low annual leases, basically putting them in the affordable housing category, and raised concern about the $300 annual fee that will have to be passed on to their renters. They asked council to consider decreasing the fee or offering waivers.
A representative from Community Housing and Resources agreed, citing impact to its program.
In response to the public input, City Attorney John Agnew and Councilmember Holly Smith, who spearheaded the regulation on behalf of the council, explained that it is the first cycle for the program’s implementation. They added that the program will be evaluated for possible adjustments as it goes.
“I think the education and awareness piece of this is going to be important,” Councilmember Richard Johnson said. “If we thought we were going to have this perfect on day one, I think that’s foolish.”
With that said, he added that he supports a waiver for affordable housing rentals.
“It seems like this action may be counter to that,” Johnson said of the fee.
Others on the council agreed.
Councilmember Jason Maughan voiced support for a fee reduction or waiver, plus wanted to review the affidavit to perhaps tighten up the language. Mayor Kevin Ruane felt that there was room for change.
“I do want to have exemptions relative to CHR. I do want to have exemptions relative to annual rentals,” he said, pointing out that the application also could be less inclusive or even less invasive.
After some discussion, the council voted 5-0 to have changes presented at the next meeting.
IN OTHER NEWS
– The council voted 5-0 to sign a letter opposing the proposed Kampachi Fish Farm off Sarasota.
– The council voted 5-0 to appoint Donald MacDonald as a member of the Sanibel Board of Trustees for the Municipal Police Officers’ Retirement Trust Fund to serve as the city council’s appointee.