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City council decides on appointments

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Jan 26, 2021

LEE COUNTY Lee County Director of Parks and Recreation Jesse Lavender conducted a presentation on the conceptual design for the Sanibel Causeway Islands Project at the Sanibel City Council’s meeting.

The Sanibel City Council made appointments to the city’s Planning Commission, Contractor Review Board and Vegetation Committee at its monthly meeting, as well as heard a presentation on Lee County’s conceptual design for the upcoming Sanibel Causeway Islands Project.

On Jan. 19, the council filled three seats on the planning commission — two full-term appointments and one partial-term appointment — plus one contractor board seat and three vegetation committee seats. Vice Mayor Holly Smith, liaison for the planning commission, opened the discussion on the candidates.

She explained that nine people had initially applied for the three seats on the planning commission, but one candidate later withdrew her application. The remaining eight included Michael Hullihan, Paul Nichols, Joelene Barb, Carl Ordemann, Laura Debruce, Robyn Cook, Ty Symroski and William Millar.

Smith reported that she had the opportunity to speak with most of them.

“They are all very qualified candidates. We have a great slate,” she said.

LEE COUNTY Lee County Director of Parks and Recreation Jesse Lavender conducted a presentation on the conceptual design for the Sanibel Causeway Islands Project at the Sanibel City Council’s meeting.

Smith explained that Hullihan and Nichols, both sitting commissioners, are seeking reappointments. She also noted that Millar and Ordemann are not full-time residents, which she feels is necessary.

Asked by the other council members for her recommendations as the commission liaison, Smith suggested appointing Nichols and Symroski to the full-term seats and Debruce for the partial term.

Councilmember Jerry Muench voiced opposition to not also retaining Hullihan.

“Why should we kick him off?” he asked.

Councilmember Chauncey Goss disagreed with Muench’s stance, explaining that he does not agree with the presumption that a person gets to retain their seat simply because they currently hold it.

After some further discussion, the council proceeded with casting ballots for the two full-term appointments, with each getting to name two candidates. In an unanimous 5-0 vote, Nichols secured his reappointment, while Symroski earned his first appointment to a commission seat in a 4-1 vote.

It then cast ballots for the partial-term appointment, with Debruce voted in 5-0.

A motion on a resolution to appoint Nichols and Symroski for the terms of Jan. 19 to Dec. 6, 2024, and Debruce for the term of Jan. 19 to Jan. 9, 2023, was approved 4-1; Muench cast the dissenting vote.

Also at the meeting, the council filled one citizen at-large seat on the contractor board for a partial-term appointment that expires on Dec. 6, 2024. Smith again kicked off the discussion as the board’s liaison.

She explained that the candidates are Charles Sterrett, Robert A. Kern and David Vaughan. A fourth applicant, Ryan Benson, did not meet the criteria because he works in the construction industry.

“We actually do have three qualified candidates,” Smith said.

She floated the names of both Sterrett and Kern for possible appointment.

“This is a difficult one for me,” Smith told the other council members, explaining later during discussion that Kern might be the better appointment as he is familiar with the board’s processes.

A vote to appoint Kern passed 4-1, with Councilmember Richard Johnson dissenting.

A motion on a resolution to appoint Kern was approved 5-0.

Also during the meeting, the council filled three seats on the vegetation committee, which were scheduled to expire on March 16. Goss, liaison for the committee, started off the discussion.

He explained that four candidates had applied to serve, including Barbara Boyce, Ellen Feingold, Claudia Hoffman and Domenick Provenzano. Goss noted that he did not think Provenzano is a full-time resident. As such, he suggested that the council only appoint Boyce, Feingold and Hoffman.

A vote to appoint the three passed unanimously 5-0.

A motion on a resolution to appoint Boyce, Feingold and Hoffman to the committee was also unanimously approved. The terms for the members will run from Jan. 19 to April 4, 2022.


Also at the meeting, Lee County Director of Parks and Recreation Jesse Lavender conducted a presentation and answered questions about the Causeway Islands Project set to start this summer.

“The scope of this project is both islands,” he said.

Lavender explained that the current conceptual design consists of upland amenities, such as creating more structured parking and drainage, adding pavilions and investigating restroom opportunities, pathways, landscaping and signage, along with erosion control structures, including adding T-groins, renourishment and other structures deemed necessary in the design process.

“So that we won’t have to do a major renourishment every year as we’ve been doing,” he said.

Lavender added that the project’s goal is to make both islands more presentable and safer.

One change aimed at improving safety is the design calls for creating one-way in and one-way out parking, so drivers can no longer “zip on and zip off” the islands like they do now, he explained.

The project is to be completed by June 2024, in line with state funding requirements.

The tentative timeline is: the project will kick off in the summer with Island B erosion control construction; Island A and B upland amenities design from summer 2021 to 2022; Island A erosion control structure design from winter 2022 to summer; Island A and B upland amenities construction from spring 2022 to summer 2024; and Island A erosion control construction from spring 2023 to summer 2024.

“If there’s any way to expedite the process, we will,” Lavender said.

The total cost of the project is $8.5 million. He explained that it is being covered by state and local monies, including $4.25 million from the state and $4.25 million from county tourist tax dollars.

During discussion after the presentation, Muench asked if some pilings off Island B that were left behind from a previous project would be turned into a fishing pier or could be turned into one.

“There’s been numerous mentions of that over the years. As of right now, that is not included in this project,” Lavender said, noting that it would first require a full structural analysis of the pilings.

“It’s something we could look into in the future,” he added.

Smith explained that she understands the existing design is conceptual, but she hopes the county considers swapping a proposed bathroom trailer for a hard structure within flood regulations. She also questioned if the new parking will be paid, which Lavender said the county is still undecided on.

Smith asked about boat trailer parking and personal watercraft launching, too.

“There shouldn’t be any way for anyone to launch a Jet Ski. It will be tougher to park larger trailers or trailers of any sort after this project it over. At least on Island B, where the issues lie now,” he said.

Lavender noted that he is also working with the county’s Natural Resources Department to implement slow speed or swim zones for the islands, which would provide more enforcement against violators.

“I’m really glad you’re going to put some parking thought into that area,” Goss said.

He suggested that the county look at ways of preventing people from crossing the road, which he considers a safety issue, as well as stopping impatient drivers from passing vehicles where it turns into two lanes after the toll. Goss also asked about overnight camping on the islands and enforcement.

“We are going to look into that,” Lavender said. “I know those issues are there.”

Johnson voiced support for the more structured parking being proposed, adding that the islands have needed it, and urged county staff to take a hard look at how the T-groins may impact nearby areas.

“This is the front-door step to our island,” he said.

“It’s very often tied to the island of Sanibel and city of Sanibel,” Johnson added.


– The city council voted 4-0 to approve a resolution for a request for an entertainment license by the Blue Giraffe Restaurant at Beachview Estates, at 1100 Par View Drive; Smith had left the meeting.

– A first reading was held for an ordinance that increases the city’s restricted parking fee for “B” decals to $400 per year and restricted parking fee for “C” decals and “BC” decals to $500 per year. It also makes permanent a $20 per day, flat-rate user fee for the city’s boat ramp facilities that was initiated as part of a pilot program to curb unpaid usage. The ordinance’s second reading will be held on Feb. 2.

– Community Services Department Director Keith Williams reported that the city is almost finished with phase II of the Donax Rehabilitation Project. The initial completion date was for early spring.

“We’re looking at one of early summer,” he said of the adjusted timeline.