Data compiled from six communities across the country similar to Sanibel were presented to the Planning Commission for comparison purposes as the city's commercial redevelopment project rolls on.
Commissioners directed staff at its July 9 meeting to examine permitted and conditional permitted uses of other communities. Staff obtained data from several more communities, but pared the list down to six for comparison. All communities are similar to Sanibel in that they are vacation destinations with planning regulations that focus on the environment and preserving the character of the community.
"Our permitted uses are in line with the six other communities," Planning Director James Jordan reported. "Instead of modifying the list, I recommend with keep the list as is. It lists about 100 permitted uses and 36 conditional uses. Any use not listed still can be considered."
The six outside communities used for comparison are Aspen (Colorado), Carmel-by-the-Sea (California), Longboat Key (Florida), Rehoboth Beach (Delaware), Jackson (Wyoming), and Nags Head (North Carolina).
"I think we need to think hard about the conditional uses," said commissioner Chuck Ketteman. "Most of these cities consider restaurants as permitted uses. We don't. It's a conditional use. If we are really committed to streamlining the process, we need to add to the permitted uses and instead will have a conditional use list that is 10 long instead of 36 long."
Ahead of the meeting, Ketteman and councilman Tom Krekel both looked at Sanibel's conditional use list and determined which ones should be added to the permitted uses list, reducing the conditional use list considerably.
"When I was on another planning commission, we would have workshop meetings to give staff and applicants an idea of where the commission's heads were at," said commissioner Chris Heidrick. "The public was invited to the workshops but not allowed to comment. We would take a straw poll at the end on the applications to give staff some direction."
Krekel offered, "Perhaps staff could put a similar business application that's not on the lists on the consent agenda for commissioners to discuss instead of putting the onus on the planning department staff to make those decisions."
Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce weighed in on the discussion before the meeting adjourned.
Jeremy Kane, speaking on behalf of the Chamber, suggested the city do away with conditional uses because, "You never know what new businesses will come before us down the road."
Kane cited three factors for his comment, "Applications, internet and social media."
He asked the commission to focus on any undesirable consequences of a business instead of the type of use itself. "Then you can measure it and say that it is permitted or not because of parking, water, smell or smoke created by the business," he said
Kane said the permitting process is a deterrent to starting a business because it is expensive, cumbersome and wasteful of the staff's time.
Commissioner Holly Smith wanted the panel to continue the discussion at more length until they reached a consensus on all of the points.
After more than 90 minutes of back and forth discussion, commissioners decided to look at both lists on their own time and take into consideration Kane's remarks as they move forward to the next discussion. They also set the next meeting to start at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 13 to strictly discuss the permitted uses list until the start of the regular meeting at 9 a.m., then continue the redevelopment discussion after the regular meeting.