CAPTIVA COMMUNITY PANEL

Minutes
Aril 11, 2006


Panel Members in Attendance: Ron Gibson, Dave Jensen, Mike Kelly, Hal Miller, Mike Mullins, Nathalie Pyle, Harry Silverglide, Sandy Stilwell

Absent: Gordon Hullar, Rene Miville

Audience: 30

1. Meeting was called to order at 9:05 a.m.

2. The minutes of the March 14 meeting were approved as presented.

3. Tracy Bean of Bean Whitaker Lutz & Kareh Inc. began her presentation of a setback variance request for Howard and Luann Booth at 15301 Captiva Drive. Miller prefaced the discussion by explaining that this was an informational meeting to allow residents to hear details of the request and ask questions prior to it being addressed by county staff. Bean explained that the Booths are seeking to locate a pool and deck between the house and the county right of way at the northern S curve, which requires a variance as there is not sufficient setback at this point. (A site plan was handed out showing the house, proposed pool/deck and road/right-of-way.)

Bean noted that Captiva Drive actually cut into the Booths' property, which further reduced the setback space. She also cited the limitations due to this being a corner lot with a driveway required to be set away from the curve, meaning there was little room elsewhere on the site for a pool to be placed that would not require a variance. Bean explained that the Booths had submitted plans to the county in order to receive a local approval letter necessary for the state permit application. That letter was issued without any mention of a setback issue, and the permit was submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for a Coastal Construction Control Line permit. That permit had subsequently been issued. All told, the plans had been reviewed twice by the county without the setback issue being raised until the contractor went in for the local building permit, which was denied due to the setback issue.

Bean said the county had admitted the mistake but would not concede variance, and that she and the Booths were meeting with county staff that afternoon to discuss the issue further. She noted instances of other pools on the island being located closer to the road than was allowed by setback rules, and that there were different regulations for different zoning districts. She cited a property at the southern S curve--essentially a mirror image of the Booth site--with a pool approximately in the same location they were seeking.

Bean cited how she felt the request complied with the Captiva variance requirements cited in Lee Plan Policy 13.1.12. She believed the request met the spirit of the plan policy, but hey needed the panel's guidance in defining goals for Captiva. She concluded be saying the Booths were not asking for something extraordinary for the island in this variance.

In panel discussion, Miller noted how the Booths came to him to seek guidance for this problem, and explained a little history of how the county road encroached on the property years ago. Gibson asked whether the house required a variance when it was built; Bean said it did not. Mullins asked about the setback difference between the property line and the road. He noted that the state required the pool to be located landward of the old CCCL and that the driveway could not be moved closer to the curve, which limited options in terms of siting the pool. Kelly asked whether the pool could be put by the driveway, and whether the septic-tank field also cut into options.

An audience member asked whether the proposed safety shoulder would cut further into the property, which seemed to be the case. Stilwell asked whether the site plan or the rendering was correct. Bean replied that the site plan was what the state had approved, but the Booths planned a smaller pool than that which was reflected in the rendering. Miller asked whether the southern property cited by Bean was regulated by different zoning rules, which Bean affirmed. Mullins said such zoning differences were irrelevant, but that the characteristics between the two properties that were similar did matter to him. Luann Booth noted that they would not have removed the vegetation between the house and the road had they known about the setback issues at the time.

Jensen asked if the county denies the variance, would the Booths still consider donating property for the road right-of-way. The Booths deferred an answer, saying they don't want to oppose the safety shoulder or have the issues tied together. Miller commented that the Booths were being penalized for county errors, and that other pools are being built closer to the road now. Silverglide asked when the Booths bought the property and were they aware of the problem at the time. They responded they purchased the site in 2003 and had no idea about the setback issue. They became interested in installing a pool when their grandchildren began to visit, and they wanted to avoid trips to the beach that required crossing Captiva Drive at the S curve. They had gotten bids from pool contractors and nobody had told them there would be a setback problem.

Stilwell made a motion to support the variance request as presented, seconded by Kelly. Initial audience comments supported the pool. Dave Doherty took exception with Jensen's question about the safety shoulder, and felt the variance would not affect the community negatively. Mullins said the comment was fair, as there was an implication of further hardship for the Booths if the county took those lands. In the final assessment, however, he felt the shoulder was irrelevant to this discussion. Miller noted that the county would not take property for the shoulder unless the owners were willing to donate. Jensen noted that a county mistake made this issue the community's problem. The vote was called and the motion was approved 7-1 (Kelly dissenting).

4. Miller introduced Alison Hagerup, administrator for the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, to discuss the status of the Blind Pass re-opening project. (County staffer Robert Neal, who oversees the project and was scheduled to attend this meeting, had cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.) A memo and draft project map prepared by Neal was distributed by Hagerup, who noted the permit submittal was now schedule for May 1, 2006, with construction possible by January 2007.

She offered the following in response to panel and audience questions: The permit approval time would likely run six months. The project construction window might extend into turtle nesting season, but they were discussing that option with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Maintenance of the project was included in the permit application. The previous re-opening project was likely to fail, but was necessary to show DEP that a more extensive project was needed for success. She closed by saying that a vegetation project was planned for the recently restored Captiva beach.

5. Hagerup was followed by Bill Vanderbilt and Tim Gardner, board members of and representing the Bayous Preservation Association. Vanderbilt explained that BPA was an outgrowth of the Clam Bayous Preservation Association, who had worked to re-opening that bayou to tidal waters. With the installation of the San-Cap Road culvert done, residents in the Dinkins Bayou section of Sanibel had started to organize to help advance the Blind Pass project, and the Clam Bayous group was renamed to encompass the broader area.

Vanderbilt explained the Bind Pass Eco Zone study done by Hans Wilson and offered background on the phased plan to open Blind Pass in order to improve tidal flushing throughout the bayous. He noted the tremendous support on both islands for this effort, and said BPA was looking at doing tests (including water quality) and bottom profiles to establish the current state of the eco-zone system from Clam Bayou through Dinkins Bayou, Sunset Bay and Roosevelt Channel. The goal was to monitor the re-opened pass over time, to assist with baseline information to address any problems. Gardner noted that the new culvert to Clam Bayou was making a tremendous different in the bayou, flushing an estimated 50 million gallons with every tide. They closed by urging interested Captivans to support the BPA and help work to bring the Blind pass project to fruition.

6. To introduce the safety shoulder item, Randy Cerchie with Lee County Department of Transportation summarized what was being proposed--essentially, two 11-foot driving lanes and two 4-foot safety shoulders for bike and pedestrian use from the Blind Pass Bridge to the Village, depending on available right-of-way. Miller introduced some measurements done by Bill and Gael Crimmins along Captiva Drive, which showed the average width of the Drive at 20 feet with average shoulders around 30 inches. He noted that in many locations the shoulders were now obscured by sand and vegetation. He then explained that a possible online survey had been discussed after the end of the last CCP meeting, and a sample set of questions had been developed for initial consideration.

Mullins said there was a need for community input he was wondering who should be heard in this regard. He suggested a committee be formed to see some parameters. Gibson asked how much use would a survey be if the county could make the final decisions regardless. Cerchie responded that while the county was not neutral and supported the shoulders, he had been directed to follow the will of the panel on this issue. Kelly asked about the impact of the proposed utilities project and the impact on vegetation of installing the shoulders. Cerchie said the utilities project would be constructed outside the county right-of-way, but that such construction would impact the shoulders, which is why they wanted to wait until after it was done if possible. He felt the utilities project would have a far greater impact on vegetation than the limited amount likely from the shoulders. Mark Tesoro, representing the county's Pedestrian and Bicycling advisory committee, said the group also supported shoulders and that biking/walking safety would be improved.

Jensen supported the idea of s committee to gather information for the community to discuss prior to undertaking any survey. He asked whether the county should wait to submit its DEP permit application for the shoulders until it was certain they would be constructed. Cerchie responded that the permitting process takes so long they wanted to get it started now.

Silverglide said he felt that the recent Captiva Current article quoting Dan Moser (chair of the county bike committee) was inflammatory and divisive, not constructive. He said that it took the county a year to develop accurate right-of-way maps, and many still don't understand the impact of the proposed safety shoulders. He asked who would pay for the utilities that might need to be moved, and was told that cost was the responsibility of the utility involved. Silverglide continued that the community needed more information on how this project will be implemented, that he had done a study of county records and found there had been no bike/car accidents reported on the island during the period he was able to access. He felt the shoulders would improve the level of comfort perhaps, but not safety.

Miller commented on the range of concern over this project, that some could care less while others want a great deal more information. Stilwell urged formation of a committee to come up with criteria for a survey. Jensen said the panel needed to gather information first to have both sides of the issue represented. Silverglide said the community needed to see accurate plans of what was being proposed.

An audience member asked whether Captiva Drive was in the middle of the county right-of-way throughout the island. Cerchie replied that it varied greatly. Harry Kaiser said that for him Captiva was a special place and that this discussion had made him calmer. Before, it sounded as though the shoulders were a done deal; now it seems as though they're just under consideration. He said he was against expansion of the road, but he did not mind sharing the road with bikers and walkers as that helped to slow down traffic. He felt a wider road would mean high traffic speed, and asked why widen the road when the need was only for a few months of the year. He urged DOT to fix what was there now and forget the shoulder idea.

Another audience member asked whether the community could undertake a voluntary cleanup of the existing shoulders between the S curves to see if that was enough space. This would not cost money, just sweat equity. Another asked what the project cost was and how many walkers and bikers would benefit. Cerchie replied the project as budgeted for $900,000, but there was no calculation of how many walkers and bikers would use it. Mullins asked whether use statistics were available from Sanibel, and an audience member said he believed the city was working on such statistics right now. Pyle clarified that for the Tween Waters stretch the shoulder would run on both sides of the road but any new pavement would have to be added on the Gulf side only due to right-of-way issues.

Silverglide noted that the proposed road/shoulder configuration was still substandard, and that safety issues for cars more than bikes were the subject of the reports provided by Moser to the panel prior to the meeting. He made a motion (Mullins second) to form a subcommittee to look at the safety shoulder issue. Dave Doherty asked whether the county could clean up the existing shoulders; Cerchie said they were broomed four times a year, but nothing more was currently planned. Another audience member asked whether the road would be raised as part of this project; Cerchie replied it would not. Another audience member said the island needed to look at its social conscience, that while the shoulders might not be necessary for current residents did we want a community that's unsafe?

Another audience member said more traffic law enforcement would help speeding; Mullins noted that the panel asked the county to lower speed limits a few months ago and DOT responded quickly to do so. He urged residents to let DOT know that response was appreciated. Another audience member noted that this discussion reminded him of when he came to Sanibel in 1969. Everyone was glad just get a bike lane then, but there was a battle for a separated bike path, which took time but has proven to be beneficial. He urged Captivans to look a separated path now. The motion was called and approved unanimously; Miller asked Jensen to head the effort. Mullins asked if the panel could coordinate with the county to assist with the voluntary effort; Cerchie said he would discuss it and report back.

7. Ken Gooderham introduced the next item, providing background on the revegetation grant secured from the state Division of Forestry and how the original plan had been modified to create a tree subsidy program (in conjunction with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Native Plant Nursery) in order to access the funds in a timely manner due to grant deadline. He said DOF officials had just approved the subsidy proposal, and that the final paperwork would be sent to Tallahassee that week. Based on comments from the panel at the last meeting, an application for the subsidy had been developed and was now available at this meeting, online and from other sources.

After some questions concerning how the process would work, the following was decided: Dave Jensen agreed to get applications in the post office and library. Gordon Hullar will be asked to see if the CCA will distribute them to their members, and an electronic copy will be sent to Maureen Tesoro. Applications can be mailed or e-mailed to the CCP, and will be compiled for review by the June CCP meeting (which should allow people enough time to respond). Gooderham may look at other grant funding for additional revegetation efforts, once the other projects in the Captiva Drive corridor have clarified their scope and schedule. SCCF Native Plant Nursery manager Jenny Evans may be invited to a future CCP meeting to discuss the use of native trees. Gibson asked whether there was an empty lot on the island where trees could be dropped prior to pickup and installation.

8. Gooderham then spoke to the next item, the status of the underground utilities project on the island. He noted that a revised estimate from Comcast had been received which totaled $403,465; this did not include an additional cost of $14.50 per foot for directional boring, which would add an estimated $306,000 (for four miles) to the cost. He also said that he had received an estimate from Sprint totaling $2.25 million for including their lines in the project; no breakdown or explanation for these costs had been provided, although it had been requested and Sprint had been invited to attend this meeting.

Also, the County Lands department had developed an estimate for its costs that included the following:

*Base costs for processing: $400,000

*If 50 parcels go to condemnation: $6 million total

*If 75 parcels go to condemnation: $10 million total

Finally, the MSTU office had developed a preliminary opinion of probable cost that totaled $15.7 million, including administrative costs of $26,154. A timetable for construction developed by Gooderham and the MSTU Office's Elizabeth Walker showed completion by between October 2010 and October 2012.

In light of these developments, Gooderham asked the panel and audience what they wanted to do next. He expressed frustration with the responsiveness of the utilities, and said there was no sense of urgency or strong cooperation being shown. He also said that the easement issue could be potentially expensive, since the county's experience in similar projects was that 20 percent of the property owners eventually ended up in court to settle easement costs and issues. If that happened on Captiva, the cost could exceed $10 million.

Miller asked whether the utilities could go in the county right-of-way and was told by both Cerchie and Gooderham that the companies (primarily LCEC) had required a public utilities easement to avoid future costs of relocation. Miller asked about county coordination of the project; Gooderham responded that a project manager was included in the preliminary estimate of costs, but that this would not be a hands-on position. Miller observed that there was no incentive for the utilities to undertake this project.

Paul Smart noted that LCEC was a rural cooperative, focused on providing uniform service across its franchise area rather than looking at innovative options for unique service areas. As such, he said, it was not stepping up to take a lead role as might be the case with other utilities in other area. Questioned whether Captivans could seek to change service providers, Smart said that would have to be researched as he was not conversant with Florida law on the matter. Silverglide asked whether the island could make a case for LCEC having failed to provide adequate service as a way to get around any franchise agreement.

Stilwell volunteered to contact Pamela May with LCEC to discuss the project and see whether LCEC would modify its position. Mullins offered to draft a letter for panel approval to express the island's frustrations with the utilities involved.

9. The next CCP meeting was set for May 9, and Gibson offered to see whether the group could meet at the Captiva Island Yacht Club as the CCA hall would be unavailable that day. The meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m.

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