Committee of the Islands

Keeping Sanibel Special Since 1975

Who is the Committee of the Islands?

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May 10, 2010

Who is the Committee of the Islands ? By Barbara Joy Cooley In a recent conversation , a friend asked “ Who are the members of the Committee of the Islands ? Who joins and why ? ” The answer is rooted both in history and in the present . The Committee of the Islands is as old as the City of Sanibel . It emerged from the effort to incorporate Sanibel as an independent city to protect it against overdevelopment by the county . In fact , the two groups that were clamoring for the city to incorporate actually merged to form the Committee of the Islands after their incorporation efforts succeeded . Before incorporation , there was a Sanibel Planning Board whose members were concerned about Lee County plans to allow for ten times more housing units on Sanibel than the number that currently exists . Under these plans , the total population of the island was projected to be 90,000 . At that time ( 1974 ) , a group called Sanibel Tomorrow had formed to work actively for Sanibel’s incorporation . It was led by a woman named Zelda “ Zee ” Butler . The group succeeded on November 5 , 1974 , when 84 percent of Sanibel’s electorate went to the polls and 63.6 percent of them voted for Sanibel to incorporate . The next week , on November 1 , Zee resigned from Sanibel Tomorrow so that she could run for the first Sanibel City Council . The new chair of Sanibel Tomorrow , Bill Kimball , appointed Arthur Hunter as Sanibel Tomorrow’s Special Campaign Chairman , and the group endorsed five candidates for Council . By the end of the year , the Sanibel Planning Board dissolved and pledged $ 5000 of its funds to Sanibel Tomorrow to assist with the campaign . By July 21 , 1975 , Sanibel Tomorrow and the Sanibel Planning Board no longer existed ; instead , the active participants of both groups incorporated as the Committee of the Islands . It functioned as both an advocate for island preservation and a political committee , right from the start . As founding Committee of the Islands board member Milena Eskew says , “ The businesses had a group , the Chamber of Commerce , to represent their interests . The realtors had an organization to represent their interests . We needed a group to represent the interests of the residents of the islands , and that is what the Committee of the Islands became . ” On December 3 , 1974 , Porter Goss , Vernon MacKenzie , Zee Butler , Charles LeBuff , and Francis Bailey were elected to the first Sanibel City Council . Residents contribute $ 300,000 In its first year , due to lawsuits and actions of the Lee County Commission , the city of Sanibel was not able to collect taxes and nearly went bankrupt . But 124 people , many of them members of the Committee of the Islands , gave over $ 300,000 to the new city to keep it afloat . The new city was swamped with applications for building permits , mostly for single - family houses . By April 1976 , over three hundred permits were issued . The new City of Sanibel was feeling overwhelmed . On April 21 , 1976 , Col . Edwin Reed , the chair of the Committee of the Islands , wrote to Porter Goss to say that the Committee was willing to help the city “ make the islands a better place to live . ” To deal with the initial swamp of requests for building permits , the Committee of the Islands developed and promoted the Rate of Growth Ordinance in 1978 . In 1979 , Porter Goss addressed the board members of the Committee of the Islands to urge them to play a strong role in the November 1980 election . The Committee did so ; in fact , at that time it went so far as to place an advertisement in the Island Reporter to endorse candidates for Lee County Property Appraiser , Tax Collector , County Commissioners , School Board , and Hospital Board . In the years since , the Committee of the Islands has continued to develop and promote political and governmental tools for protecting Sanibel : the Dark Skies ordinance , Forever Wild , Pond Apple Park , and the People’s Choice Charter amendments , to name just a few . The organization also continues its government “ watchdog ” role ; you can always find active Committee of the Islands members at important city council and planning commission meetings . The Committee then often reports on key issues addressed at such meetings in email alerts to members , on its website , and through articles in the island press . Protecting Sanibel from overdevelopment – while allowing for development that honors the city’s Vision Statement and the Sanibel Plan – requires vigilance and effort by all islanders . The Committee of the Islands has sought , throughout its 35 - year history , to provide an organization through which these efforts can be focused , to help ensure the continuity of good local government and to preserve the island’s unique and natural characteristics . To help achieve these goals , the Committee has in the past and continues today to seek out and support candidates and ballot questions that contribute to that effort . For that reason , it is duly registered as a political committee , which permits it to publicly provide such endorsements and support . So the past and present both answer the question , “ Who is the Committee of the Islands ? ” The answer : Residents of Sanibel who want to keep Sanibel special . The Committee of the Islands meets regularly and encourages Sanibel residents to join and become active in its committees which focus on land use , the environment , and various aspects of City government . For more information , see www.coti.org .

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