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Sanibel and Captiva residents still solidly opposed to proposals for changing height and density

Marty Harrity reads a letter from Jay Brown, president of the Captiva Community Panel, an advisory committee to the Lee County government, during a public meeting Wednesday about proposed amendments to the Lee County Land Development Code.
City of Sanibel video
Marty Harrity reads a letter from Jay Brown, president of the Captiva Community Panel, an advisory committee to the Lee County government, during a public meeting Wednesday about proposed amendments to the Lee County Land Development Code. Brown could not attend the meeting.

Residents of Sanibel and Capita Island continue to voice strong opposition to proposed Lee County land use amendments that could drastically alter the barrier islands.

Some of those voices were heard Wednesday at a public meeting on the amendments held on Sanibel.

Currently all homes on Captiva can only be 28 feet above the base flood level. That’s two-stories-tall and it’s been that way since 2012.

There’s also regulations on density that mandates there can't be more than three units — homes, cottages, condominiums, or even hotel rooms -- per acre on the environmentally sensitive island.

South Seas Island Resort on the far northern end of Captiva Island is asking to be exempt from the density and the height limitations.

That is not sitting well with islanders.

“I cannot find one legitimate reason for this change."
David Mintz, Captiva Panel

“It would destroy the village as we know it,” said David Mintz of the Captiva Panel, an advisory committee to the Lee County government.

At the public meeting, Mintz and several others from civic groups expressed numerous reasons why the county should scuttle any such amendments to the county’s land use plans:

  • The Captiva Fire Department would have to purchase $1.6 million in new equipment to be able to reach a third floor.
  • If ammendments to the density restrictions and height mimitstions are made at the behest of South Seas Island Resort, than what is to stop future other resorts, hotels and property owner from seeking the same?
  • The proposals could jeopardize the water quality and sewer project that this county is working on with Sanibel to absorb Capitiva Island into its central sewer system.
  • An increase in density would add even more traffic to Sanibel Island — which nearly its entire length must be traversed by residents and visitors.
  • More density would ruin the islands’ charm and bring added risks to wildlife and the overall environments of Sanibel and Captiva.

“I cannot find one legitimate reason for this change,” Mintz said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the second of three public meetings on the proposals. These were not regular Lee County Commission meetings, rather meetings where county staff explained the amendments and then took public comment.

The third meeting for public input is scheduled on Aug. 9, in the Public Works Building, 1500 Monroe Street, in downtown Fort Myers. This is a drop-in meeting where people can walk around and ask questions.

The board of county commissioners will hold a workshop on the proposed changes at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, at Admin East, 2201 Second Street, Room 118, Fort Myers. At this meeting the commissioners will be briefed on feedback from public meetings and since it is a workshop, there will be no public comment.

If next week’s third and final public hearing is anything like the first two public meetings, then the county commissioners will be told that Sanibel and Captiva residents are solidly against any changes.

Lisa Riordan, of the Captiva Civic Association, wrapped up Wednesday’s meeting with this to say: “I'd like to say that never before in working with a community -- and I've had many, many years involved in community work -- have I seen two communities come together and not find one person other than the business (South Seas) that wants this.

“…I've never found 100% of the people that I've talked to before saying we're with you. But that's what we found here and we're hearing it tonight. We've heard it at every meeting, whether it be businesses, residents, rental agencies, whether it be resident owners, or owners who own property for investment purposes.

“… Everyone is saying we have rules in place. …They understand why we have density limitations. They understand why We have height limitations. They understand that on Captiva, we like to have trees that are taller than the buildings.”

Barring no postponements, the board of county commissioners will make the final decisions with a public hearing on Sept 5 and a transmittal hearing on Sept. 6.

Both meetings will start at 9:30 a.m. in the Commission Chambers, 2120 Main St., Fort Myers.

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