March 14, 2006

Panel Members in Attendance: Hal Miller, Ron Gibson, Mike Kelly, Harry Silverglide, Dave Jensen, Rene Miville, Gordon Hullar

Absent: Chris van der Baars

Audience: 30

1. Meeting was called to order at 9:07 a.m.

2. The minutes of the January meeting were approved as presented.

3. Miller asked for a show of hands on who had attended CCP meetings before. He noted that the agenda item concerning sewers had been removed, as Rick Diaz of Lee County Utilities resigned the previous Friday. A roll call of panelists was held.

4. Miller offered background on the first item, the applicants to fill the vacant panel seat. He noted that van der Baars had contacted the panel last week, requesting to resign due to time constraints. Van der Baars was enthused about Blackstone Group's acquisition of South Seas Resorts, but that the transition would absorb most of his time and he could not realistically promise to attend meetings for the coming months. van der Baars reiterated Blackstone's support for underground utilities, noting that they were in discussion with LCEC to put utilities underground on the resort as well.

Miller offered a brief history of the CCP and how the seats were to be filled. Since van der Baars' seat was one of the CPOA designees, that group had the right to fill it. But the CPOA board opted to put one the three current applicants in that spot at this time, and to make it a decision of the panel for this opening. At this point, the three applicants -- Nathalie Pyle, Sandra Stilwell and Mike Mullins--left the meeting pending discussion and a vote.

Miville said the prospect of three candidates and two seats was a dilemma for him, so he turned to Lee County planner Jim Mudd for advice. As a result, he wanted to introduce a motion to expand the CCP by one seat and welcome all three members. Kelly seconded.

Gibson noted he had never received as much input as on this issue, with e-mails and phone calls giving opinion of who should be on the CCP. All three were very qualified and he was gratified in the high interest in the panel. As discussion focused on the issue of a 10-member panel, Hullar asked what size is the right size? Kelly wondered that if the panel meets all year, will it be able to have a quorum? Hullar noted that with a mixture of full-time and part-time residents, summer meetings could have a narrower point of view due to a predominance of full-time panelists. Miller noted there was a certain social dynamic among the three--Mullins was a worker, Stilwell had good contacts with the county, Pyle was well liked and connected.

Miller said the panel size could be addressed as the panel works through the bylaws. Audience discussion and questions ensured concerning the split between residents and business owners on the CCP, how other panels in the county addressed similar issues, the benefits of a full-time panel and the Sunshine Laws requirements the new panelists would face. Ron Kramer expressed dismay at this decision, saying the new vacancy should be advertised and the decision to expand was a bit of a copout. Miller disagreed with that assertion, saying this was another step toward democracy and openness, and that the majority of the community would not have a problem with this.

The motion was called and approved unanimously. The applicants were invited to return, and took seats with the rest of the panel.

5. Miller offered background on the next item, discussing the proposed safety shoulder, reducing the width of traffic lanes and right-of-way issues.

Randy Cerchie with Lee DOT referenced a 22-foot-long aerial overlay that showed the scope of the proposed safety shoulder. He said the department was about to submit the Coastal Construction Control Line permit for the Tween Waters area, where the proposed shoulder would be subject to regulation by the state Department of Environmental Protection. He said what the county is planning to build was based on community comments to date.

Miller asked the audience whether they favored the shoulders, and approximately half agreed. Audience discussion followed, with one person stating that widening Captive Drive was bad because traffic will speed up as it did when the road was widened in the 1980s. One Captiva Drive owner related a story about a man defecating in his bushes, saying that if they widen the road and permit bikers and joggers, unless they build restrooms we're in a lot of trouble. He also raised concerns about people making U-turns in a widened road. Sarita Van Vleck noted that she just missed hitting a bicyclist by inches yesterday. When you have to watch for traffic, adding bicyclists will make road more dangerous. Miller noted that bikers have the same rights on the road as cars do, but on Captiva they don't have a safe way to exercise those rights. More people using the roads for walking, jogging, biking, are we going to wait for someone to get killed before we act?

Harry Kaiser said that most months there were very few people here. We were discussing widening the road for a short period of time when the tourists are here. Why consider widening it, a bike path a better idea. Silverglide said scare tactics were inappropriate, that the island was dangerous place to ride overall. There is a privacy issue, people concerned about access and privacy, widening the road does not change that. People along Captiva Drive don't favor it, people without that access favor it. People share the road with bikes, can do the same speed as cars thanks to lowered speed limits. He was not willing to sacrifice eight feet of dunes, particularly along the Tween Waters strip. We will need a seawall or riprap to protect road in some areas. Jensen agreed that if a shoulder brings a lot more bicyclists, how will that increase safety? Trucks at the Green Flash curve don't slow down and stay in their lane now, adding more bikers will make it more dangerous.

Dan Moser with the county's Pedestrian and Bicyclist Advisory Committee noted most of what was being said was anecdotal evidence, the typical NIMBYism playing on fears. Shoulders work in other areas, and this is the best opportunity you'll have to improve safety. Proficient cyclists can share roads, but many others aren't skilled enough to share the road as it is now. You will increase safety and access markedly by doing something like this. Do a separated path through the dunes at Tween Waters if necessary. These were a lot of unsubstantiated fears.

One man left in objection to Moser's comments. Silverglide asked to see some of the studies where safety has improved. Both sides are using anecdotal information--let's get some facts.

One audience member (a veteran bicyclist from Sanibel) noted that he increased speed on Captiva to keep pace with traffic if possible. Seasoned bikers keep a single line, not weaving. Conditioned bikers see themselves as a vehicle, move along as with a car. He said bikers are coming whether you want it or not now. Lanes makes it a little safer for pedestrians and slow bikers.

Doris Holzheimer wondered if we were thinking too narrowly. Should we consider other tools such as signs, bumps, rumble strips, above and beyond a shoulder, look at this in a less simplistic way? Tom Loomis asked who will clean up the sand coming on the path if you put a path in the dunes? Sandy Nelson suggested someone check with Billy Kirkland on Sanibel about increased usage for recreational riders. Kelly asked what the timing was with any construction. Cerchie said it was wrapped up with the other potential island projects, that DOT will do this (or not) when you're ready. Moser offered to provide safety data. Silverglide asked for an alternative to avoid affecting the Tween Waters dunes.

6. Ken Gooderham led off the next item with an explanation of underground status. There had not been a final estimate from Comcast as of yet, despite regular requests. County Lands was preparing its estimate for easement acquisition and a staff meeting of utilities and county people would be scheduled later in March. He offered an explanation of the Municipal Services Taxing Unit schedule and payment, noting that his estimate for a $6 million project paid out over 10 years called for 0.55 mills per year. For the owner of a property valued at $1 million in taxable value, that would be roughly $555 per year for 10 years; for a $2 million property, that would $1,100 per year. A meeting of the staff from the utilities and the county was planned before the next CCP meeting to address these issues further.

Miville asked whether there was any chance to fight the MSTU decision, and instead try to keep it as a Municipal Services Benefit Unit where only those property owners that benefited would be assessed. Gooderham responded that without a legal opinion to counter the assertions of the County Attorney's office, it seemed useless. Miller asked whether having the LCEC easement outside of the county right-of-way was good for possible road or shoulder work. Miville suggested the panel keep looking at other funding options. Miller asked for a show of hands in support of the project in concept, a majority favored. It was requested to invite the LCEC board member from Sanibel to an upcoming CCP meeting.

7. Gooderham continued to the next item, a proposed tree subsidy program. Gooderham offered some background on the revegetation grant the CCP had secured from the state Division of Forestry, noting that a decision had been made to look at options once it became clear that it could be difficult to meet the grant deadline of September 2007 with the other potential projects in the right-of-way. Previous discussion had focused on a giveaway program, and Gooderham had put together a proposed program working with the Native Plant Nursery of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation offered a 75% subsidy on a selected list of native plants. He noted that the state was anxious to get the funds allocated, and had set a deadline of March 15 for some kind of decision by Captivans on which way they wanted to proceed.

Hullar noted that he had discussed this with the nursery, and estimated that the trees proposed would cost $130-$150 for 15-gallon trees, giving the island approximately 1,500 trees to work with. He said the real issue was how to distribute those trees to achieve the desired result. Miville commented whether the focus should and would be canopy restoration, which meant asking owners to plant close to the right-of-way in hopes of regrowing that canopy over time. Miller said the reality was the island needed to get more trees overall to recovery from Hurricane Charley. Hullar said the planting should be as close to the right-of-way as possible, and made a motion to require any trees provided by this program be planted within 20 feet of the Captiva Drive right-of-way. Miville seconded for discussion.

Mullins said feedback as a great idea, and suggested property owners make an application to the CCP for the trees they wanted and include a budget. If the panel needed a lottery, let's look at an equitable way to distribute. Let's put it out there and say we reserve the right to set limits as to where they plant it on their property. Miville said if there were more subscribers than shares, then you cut the distribution back a little.

Hullar said it still came down to how we allocate the trees, and urged action on the motion on the floor. Miller was concerned about the restrictive nature of the motion, and wondered whether it would be enforceable. Gibson wondered how you would handle some place such as Sunset Captiva under this motion. The motion was called and defeated unanimously.

Stilwell suggested preparing an application to the CCP that property owners could submit by a deadline. Mullins agreed, saying this would allow the panel to get a sense of who was interested, how many trees they wanted and what they were willing to spend. Gooderham agreed to prepare an application for panel review, and would follow up with SCCF and the state to be sure this would work for both entities.

8. Doris Holzheimer introduced the next item, concern preparations for the coming hurricane season. She and Celeste Langer provided handouts of a draft Family Hurricane Plan brochure and notification of an April 6 meeting on preparations at BIG Arts on Sanibel. The citizens group has met.

She explained operations last year and the islandwide communication plan. Some had asked for weather information; we don't have weather station on Captiva but will pass to what we can get. The group wanted to identify volunteers in a variety of roles to support the first-responders -- to extend them, not to replace them during emergencies. She asked for more volunteers, and a signup sheet was passed around. Volunteers could staff an information line, monitor conditions and information. The group wanted to develop an integrated approach for island issues; recruit structural safety inspectors, trained to do some preliminary inspections of properties. This eventually would morph to start two CERTs -- Community Emergency Response Teams--which would need volunteers. They wanted to start one in May, start another in the fall to capture broader variety of residents.

Captiva Fire District will send a person to a "train the trainer" sessions so we'll have two on island to deal with any kind of catastrophic event, including hurricanes. The group was working with county staff to set up a Captiva-specific information place on the EOC Web site, a separate Web site with Captiva-only info on it. They would disseminate hurricane pass information from Sanibel, working on the 800 number again this year. The group was talking with Solid Waste on debris collection.

The group would continue to provide indo to Captiva e-lists and Web sites -- not develop lists, but feed current lists and Web sites. She asked volunteers to let them know contact information, and that a Captiva organizational meeting might be held in May -- on lessons learned, what will be different, how you can help. The county Family Hurricane Plan booklet was just out, we were the first to get them. She urged the audience to look it over and develop a family plan. If you want more Captiva-specific info, tell them what you want.

Mullins noted that Solid Waste was looking for a staging area on island. It was a last-minute request last year, but if you have land let us know. With sufficient space they would set up grinding equipment (reduction equipment), makes it easier to deal with vegetative debris.

9. Mullins discussed the next item, a bylaws update. He was reviewing other groups' bylaws, will reduce them and bring to the CCP in the future. Some "low hanging fruit" issues were coming to the fore, such as rotation of panel members, how long someone would serve on the panel. It could be at least two and not more than three years, with up to two consecutive terms if two years or single terms if three years, and you could not replace yourself. That would eventually lead to an annual rotation panelists. Will pass on to CCP in writing to consider. He noted that a chairperson rotation was common on county committees, and it could occur annually. Some groups set it up that the chair would not be able to succeed him or herself, selected by nomination within panel on a motion vote of the panel. Other groups used seniority to decide the chair, based on term on the board.

Miller said these issues could be addressed at the next meeting, with time to discuss in more depth. He asked Mullins to send ideas out to think about in advance, that some issues we can deal with quickly. The panel can start with some bylaws, not have a comprehensive set of bylaws to start.

10. Gooderham provided an update on the mixed-use amendment to the Lee Plan, that the paperwork would be filed that afternoon and that summaries would be available shortly. A schedule of hearings would be announced once they were established by the county. Kelly noted that the Lee County Hearing Examiner had approved the Mead variance request for a mixed use development at11528 Andy Rosse Lane, which was a surprise as staff had opposed it due to the lack of guiding language in the Lee Plan. The panel thanks Kelly for his efforts on this issue.

11. Miller asked for a Blind Pass update. Jensen reinded the audience that this was a county project, and noted there had been trouble with engineering firm which meant no start date had been decided. Miville added that the county and the engineer were discussing a template for models today, and that construction could begin in October after turtle season. A permit could be submitted in five weeks, acceptance took 2-3 months, and work would wait until end of turtle season.

Mullins said the Bayou Preservation Group had formed involving residents of Dinkins and Clam Bayous with some Captivans getting involved. The group was trying to expand their support; it was not intended to be adversarial to CEPD, mostly monitoring progress. It had 400-500 members, mostly from Sanibel. He asked whether we could schedule them and this issue for a future meeting? Consensus of the panel was to do so.

12. Silverglide noted he had been asked about derelict houses on Captiva, and said anyone concerned about the issue could contact someone at the county's code enforcement division for information.

13. The meeting was adjourned at 11:20 AM

Ancilliary issues discussed at the meeting:
Hal Miller noted that BIG Arts wanted to encourage more Captivans to get involved in BIG Arts, and planned an event at the CCA hall on Sunday, April 2, at 6 p.m. featuring a jazz group here. Cost would be $30 per person, drinks and heavy hors d'oevures. CCA, Susan Stuart and BIG Arts have tickets.

Ron Gibson noted that David Aniston with Audubon of Florida was to speak at the Captiva Island Yacht Club on Wednesday, March 15; he would discuss water quality issues and Everglades.

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