Committee of the Islands

Keeping Sanibel Special Since 1975

Redevelopment on Sanibel

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July 17, 2008

How dense is too dense , how big is too big - Redevelopment on Sanibel In late 2005 , City Council directed the Planning Department to implement a work program to address redevelopment on the island . The primary objective is to encourage redevelopment of aging , non - conforming properties without lessening standards but by finding new routes for attaining standards . Four classes of properties are included in this part of the work program ; 1 . Commercial buildings in the commercial district , 2 . Resort hotel , motel and related accommodations , 3 . Residential structures in the Gulf Beach Zone and 4 . Single family residential construction . In addition the Planning Department wa s asked to consider a plan for redevelopment of the “ Town Center ” otherwise known as “ Periwinkle Way West ” - the area around City Hall , Big Arts and the Library and to take a fresh look at the issue of what is sometimes called “ inappropriately sized ” home s . Work to address the four identified classes of properties has not proceeded as quickly as we had anticipated . No actual proposals have yet been put forth by the Planning department . However , with input from the consulting firm of Wallace , Rober ts & Todd , some preliminary proposals for part of Periwinkle Way West are being considered by the Planning Commission and City Council . The principal focus of these proposals is the Nave property and adjoining parcels occupied by St . Michael’s Church , The School House Theater and Big Arts . The two proposals which have received most serious consideration thus far , “ Town Center Today ” and “ Sanibel Commons ” would , if adopted , create greater unification of the parcels in question . However , that increased unification would come at a price . It would involve significant changes to existing land use law . First , to encourage what is known as “ mixed use “ , that is to say , the integration of commercial and residential uses on a given parcel , both plans call for the waiver of a provision of the Land Development Code which , to discourage over development of a parcel , requires a property owner to chose between full commercial or full residential development . ( Commercial properties may be used for both pur poses ) . Here is how it works . An owner must give up 1000 sq . ft . of commercial space for every dwelling unit constructed on a commercial parcel . The effect is to prevent use of a parcel for both maximum commercial and residential purposes . Both plans under consideration would eliminate that provision as to the properties in that district . The second proposal , “ Sanibel Commons ” would , in addition to dropping the 1000 sq . ft . penalty , allow an increase in the residential density permitted on the Nave property by “ shifting ” density allocations from the adjoining institutional properties to the Nave property . Under the Sanibel Plan residential density is to be allocated by ecological zone , on a parcel by parcel basis . Additionally , it is unclear whether owners of developed institutional parcels are entitled to transfer residential development rights . At a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission on January 15 , 2008 , Council members and Commissioners rejected the proposals to dro p the 1000 sq . ft . penalty as well as any increase in allowable residential density on the Nave property . Instead , they directed the Planning Department to work with the affected property owners in hopes of arriving at a workable vision for the district wi thin existing density / intensity parameters . At the meeting COTI spoke in opposition increasing residential density on the Nave property . We understand that at City Council’s request , once work is completed on the Periwinkle Way West plans , the Planning Department will focus on possible revisions to the law on “ inappropriately sized ” homes . The current law ( Land Development Code Section 86 - 43 ) provides that no new structure shall “ interrupt the rhythm of existing structures ” in a neig hborhood or “ be inharmonious with the general atmosphere and character ” of an existing neighborhood or if none exists , the city as a whole . There have been complaints from property owners and architects that the law is too vague and subjective and t hat more guidance in the form of objective design criteria , is needed to eliminate some of the uncertainty that now exists . Currently , if an owner and the Planning Department cannot agree on what would satisfy Section 86 - 43 , the City retains an independe nt architect to review the plans and make recommendations . If the parties still cannot agree and the Planning Department refuses to issue a permit , the property owner may appeal to the Planning Commission where members of the public may also be heard , then to city Council and ultimately , the courts . If plans are approved by the Planning Department the project may move forward with no opportunity for public input .

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