Committee of the Islands

Keeping Sanibel Special Since 1975

Resort Redevelopment - Introduction

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April 01, 2010

What to do about aging structures in our resort district ? By Larry Schopp , Board Member Committee of the Islands The City is now actively engaged in addressing an issue whose time has come : What to do about aging structures in the Resort Housing District - - condominiums , hotels and motels ? One might ask : What’s the problem ? Why not just improve or replace them as needed ? The answer : Because most of them are non - conforming . And , without some kind of accommodation by the City , rebuilding them - - or making major improvements – would often require that they be replaced with structures that have fewer units , in line with current codes . This would likely result in economic loss that acts as a disincentive to replace or improve aging buildings . Many island structures , including many in the Resort Housing District , predate Sanibel’s incorporation as a city . They were built or had permits issued before the Sanibel Plan and Land Development Code were adopted . As one would expect , many exceed current residential density limits or other land use regulations . For this reason , they are classified as “ nonconforming structures ” - - legal when built and entitled to exist , but not eligible for redevelopment . As these structures age , the question the City faces is what is to become of them . There are two choices - - gradual deterioration ( in appearance , functionality and safety ) or redevelopment consistent with community standards . Sanibel Plan offers insight Section 1.3 of the Sanibel Plan offers insight but no real roadmap to a solution . It states : “ Redevelopment is a process that is more difficult than initial development . The City of Sanibel will need to be more flexible and imaginative with respect to … principles of building and site design . This flexibility should not be a lessening of standards . Rather , it should open up new routes to attaining those standards , which ensure that the harmony , general atmosphere and character of the community are retained . ” One might ask : Didn’t the City address all these issues when it adopted its first post - disaster buildback ordinance ? Yes and no . The buildback ordinance was intended to deal with emergency situations - - the potential loss of property to a hurricane or other natural disaster . With strong support from the Committee of the Islands , the Land Development Code was amended to make it clear that , with very few limitations , nonconforming structures could be rebuilt in their pre - disaster configuration to avoid loss of property after a natural disaster . For example , structures with four habitable floors are now permitted to build back post - disaster above base flood elevation , even though those structures presently exceed the height limitations of both the Sanibel Plan and the Land Development Code . That’s because avoidance of hardship is the primary objective . Redevelopment vs . buildback Planned redevelopment is different from buildback . It is not driven by duress or hardship , but by a desire to improve or the prospect of financial gain . The City needs to be flexible in devising a framework for redevelopment , so that owners have an incentive to maintain standards . But owners of nonconforming structures should not be permitted to redevelop with the same allowances granted to buildback driven by natural disasters and hardship . For example , in a planned redevelopment scenario , owners of four - story structures might be permitted to modernize their properties , but not to replace them at current nonconforming heights . Normally the Planning Commission would be expected to develop proposals on redevelopment , which would be presented to City Council for adoption , modification or perhaps rejection . The Commission has instead , in this instance , asked Council for a guidance document that will enable it to focus on the issue within approved parameters . That makes sense and should streamline the whole process . Council , with assistance from the Planning Department , recently completed work on just such a guidance document and referred it to the Planning Commission , which has already begun its deliberations . We think the process is on the right track , and as it moves forward , we will comment further on the issues involved and the choices before the City . Public input on resort redevelopment is important to the City . There is ample time for you to become informed and make your feelings known to those in city government . There is an opportunity for public comment before important decisions are made at both City Council and the Planning Commission . Meeting times are posted on the internet and in the newspapers - - usually Tuesday mornings at 9 : 00 A.M . The Committee of the Islands also invites your comments and ideas on this important subject . You can email us at coti @ cot.org and / or check our website at coti.org . ______________________________ Editorial contact : Mike Gillespie , 579 - 0496

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