The City of Sanibel's commercial redevelopment project is taking shape and moving forward as City Council approved sending portions of the Land Development Code Amendments section to the Planning Commission at its monthly meeting on June 4.
Council also approved a staff request for authorization to negotiate an agreement with Woodroffe Corporation Architects for master plan services regarding development of a master plan for the creation of a Civic Core on Dunlop Road. The Civic Core has been discussed at previous council meetings with Henry Woodroffe presenting a preliminary plan to move the Public Works Department to another location and develop the 25-acre site to include building space for use by various non-profit organizations, landscaping and parking for community events.
The Civic Core would centralize Center 4 Life, Community Housing & Resource, Big Arts and perhaps other community activities, farmers market and office space all in close proximity to Sanibel Library, City Hall, Big Arts and Sanibel Historical Museum & Village. The idea is to ease public safety, traffic and parking concerns on Periwinkle Way whenever there is a community celebration that draws particularly large crowds on weekends.
City Council authorized negotiating a agreement with Woodroffe Corporation Architects for a master plan regarding the Civic Core project targeted for the 25-acre parcel that currently is occupied by the city's Public Works Department.
Three of the five categories of the Land Development Code section of the commercial redevelopment project are headed to the Planning Commission for public input, discussion and direction - permitted uses, parking standards and commercial interconnectivity.
Nonconforming structures and uses and setback requirements were held back for more staff consideration and review. Those sections will be presented to City Council at its next meeting on July 16.
After agreeing during the council workshops regarding permitted uses to expand the list of permitted uses for the first time since 1985, council reversed itself on the process for considering such uses. Instead of starting the process at the council level, the process of considering similar business uses not included on the expanded list of uses now will start at the Planning Commission level as a consent agenda item first reading. If necessary, a second hearing would be held before sending the application to council for final approval.
Current off-street parking standards, with a recommendation to reduce the dimensions of each required parking space, and encouraging interconnectivity between commercial properties with regards to shared parking and bike path accesses both move along to Planning Commission.
Non-conforming structures and uses, and current setback standards sections will undergo further staff evaluation. Council opted to retain the current regulations on these types of applications while acknowledging the aspect of grandfathering certain properties that have no hope of meeting the current standards.
In other council business items, the panel awarded the contract for the East Periwinkle shared use path and roadway improvement project to C.W. Roberts Contracting Inc. in the amount of $689,678.
A contract for street resurfacing in 2013 was awarded to Community Asphalt Corp. in the amount of $674,979. Grant approvals from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) for Lighthouse Beach restroom completion, beach erosion monitoring and beach park restroom roof replacements all passed unanimously.
Council had a lengthy discussion regarding recent requests for the waiving of city fees at several businesses with Councilman Mick Denham voicing the strongest objection to complete waiver of fees on the basis of "fairness" to those who have paid or will pay those fees in the future. Consideration was given to the fact the city will review reduction of the fee structure during the next budget cycle after already having reduced the fees by 25 percent one year ago.
The discussion came up during the consideration of waiver requests by owners of Sanibel Deli and Fresh Taqueria. Sanibel Deli's request for a partial waiver passed 4-1 while Fresh Taqueria was granted a full waiver unanimously due to the one-of-a-kind island uniqueness of the property since its off-street parking is "three driveways down" Periwinkle Way from the actual restaurant.
The ongoing causeway tolls report also drew considerable discussion by council.
"We still need a better understanding of why the causeway construction went $22 million over budget," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "I want to peel back that onion further to find out what those expenditures were for."
Vice Mayor Doug Congress, who has been acting as council's liaison with the county, put the report in perspective.
"We need to be a good partner with the county on this," Congress said. "It's not for this council, it's not for this staff, but for 10 years down the road and beyond. We have to put together a generational plan either with a liaison or hiring a consultant."
Congress and Ruane agreed to pursue a "past, present, future" approach. Understand what happened in financing and construction in the past, how we got to where we are now, and how to monitor the maintenance of the causeway and sharing the toll proceeds moving forward.
Ruane moved that Congress continue as the city's liaison to the county in the financial aspect of the bridge while Ruane continue as the city spokesperson. That motion carried unanimously.