May 9, 2006

Panel Members in Attendance: Gordon Hullar, Dave Jensen, Rene Miville, Nathalie Pyle, Harry Silverglide, Sandra Stilwell

Absent: Hal Miller

Audience: 25

1. Vice chair Jensen convened the meeting at 9:00 a.m. with introductions. Minutes from the April 11, 2006, meeting were approved on a motion by Silverglide (Pyle second) in a unanimous vote.

2. Jensen introduced Robert Neal with the Lee County Division of Natural Resources. Who expressed his appreciation of the community's interest in the proposed Blind Pass project. Neal said the permit application has been received by the county and was under review. It proposed a 160-foot-wide channel 10 feet deep under the bridge and around the current ebb shoal. There was no crossover to Dinkins Bayou in the proposed design, but the engineer believed it should happen naturally. There would be a close-to-natural cut in the Wulfert channel, which should increase flow into Dinkins Bayou. With four times the amount of water as there is now, clarity and conditions should improve. That's a secondary benefit in the permit, but a primary reason to start the project.

Neal said the county can't prove on paper how it's going to improve the Bayou's water quality. This is an improvement, not restoration, because they don't have the historical water quality data. He said data collection now would be a great idea. This was to be maintenance dredging to reopen the pass and let the environmental benefits take place. The proposed sand bypassing would take beach-compatible material out of pass and put it on the shoreline.

Hullar asked if everything that's been destroyed can't be restored because you don't have data to show what it was? Neal said this is an aquatic preserve, so we recognize it's worse that it was before -- but we don't know what it was before. We have to look at the impact on organisms that are there now, even though they may not be what was supposed to be there. We know it is going to be an improvement, but restoration we can't do.

Hullar asked if the dredging was going up Roosevelt Channel. Neal said it would go about 300 feet where sediment has accumulated. Stilwell asked whether it will fill in again, and was the county going to open Clam Bayou simultaneously. Neal: Clam Bayou is a separate permit, we want to open the pass as fast as we can using the smallest area to maintain a stable opening. Silverglide asked about ongoing maintenance and whether there would be a revetment at the Gulf opening. Neal said there would be a revetment only on Captiva side of the pass, as Sanibel is opposed to shore hardening. The county can come back in every five years to dredge, hopefully just seaward of the bridge. We'd love to see a 7-8 year interval, in line with Captiva's beach renourishment. We will do a hydrology survey every year to assess shoaling, estimate lifespan before maintenance. Monitoring each year to check maintenance needs, the pass will not stay open unless we maintain it.

Miville said to imagine you have a house with the appropriate drains for flow, but the main drain is not what it should be. We'll take care of the main drain and all the other openings will begin to flow as they should. The project supervisor will make or break this effort and Neal is one of the best supervisors I've seen' we're in very good hands. Going in with a permit application in 3-5 days. Silverglide asked how long it took for approval. Neal said they expected approval in October, and to start construction in January. We will follow up on permit 30 days after it's submitted to DEP, go to Tallahassee to review conditions and answer questions. DEP is only one agency to comment; Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries all have to review and will take more than 30 days. We know what they will say based on the Captiva beach project and the questions they asked about that. DEP is the crucial review, they will address the hydraulics. We're working with Aquatic Preserve local staff, they will tell us their thoughts on impact on organisms that have established inside the pass. We're trying to address their concerns up front, not going to sit back and wait for them to respond.

Steve Cochlan asked about the likelihood for approval. Neal said it will happen, but making it by October will be a lot of work. U.S. Fish & Wildlife knows what's coming, what we're thinking. We've discussed this with the agencies all through the process. The agencies have coauthored this permit over the past two years. Cochlan asked what the county was doing differently from the last time to keep pass open this time. Miville said the previous project only removed the plug in front of pass, it was not sufficient. Jensen noted that the CEPD had to do the small project to convince DEP it would take a full project to keep it open. Anne Vanderbilt asked if there would be any public input during permit review. Neal said a letter campaign was planned.

3. The item concerning establishing a hurricane fund through the panel to pay for any storm-related costs for organization and communication was introduced by Ken Gooderham, as Mike Mullins (who had requested the item) could not attend. Gooderham explained Mullins wanted to be sure there was a mechanism to pay for things such as hotel rooms, etc. without it having to come out of individual pockets. Hullar asked what specific uses would be covered by this, that he felt that needed to be laid out up front. Jensen suggested the panel hold off on the item until the next meeting. Pyle requested a more specific plan.

4. Concerning the proposed safety shoulder along Captiva Drive, Jensen said the safety shoulder committee had met, and that most of those volunteering were opposed to the idea. The committee had planned to meet June 14, but he will try to move up that meeting so it can occur before the next panel meeting. He encouraged people in favor of the safety shoulder to join the committee. Hullar noted a previous survey showed people wanted one, but we don't know what people want now. Jensen said the goal was to work towards a survey. Silverglide noted the panel needed an explanation about the information included in the DEP permit application, that documents have been sent to owners along the Tween Waters stretch and it would be helpful for the rest of the island to know what those were.

Stilwell noted LDOT had recently removed vegetation around shoulders. Miville said the road will not be 8 feet wider, that to make the changes to accommodate the shoulder would make it 3 feet wider. Pyle said we needed a conversation about design options, such as a single shoulder along the Tween Waters stretch. Hullat noted that it was illegal to ride a bike on the wrong side of the road unless it was a separated path. Miville asked whether the panel could get a planner to offer insight on options. He noted safety issues of walking on the street to get to nearby beach accesses. Members of the audience discussed current shoulder conditions and previous surveys on this issue. One noted that Sanibel has 50 bike-auto accidents per year, but the police feel there are more. There are so many things to look for on Periwinkle when pulling into traffic, it's a nightmare.

Mark Tesoro, with the Dept. of Health, said that an alternate means of transportation will reduce traffic on the roads. Those concerned about the shoulder should talk to Randy Cerchie with comments, see what options he can provide, and then send out survey. Cochlan asked whether there could be part of the island with a path and parts without. Silverglide said that the Village is done, it's about the rest of the island and we could have paths on some and not other. Pyle reiterated we need discussion about design options, either at the panel or in the committee. Miville said these concerns were legitimate, but we needed to ask whether the island is better off with paths. He hoped the committee and the panel could give options of the best possible intelligent design we can develop and lLet community decide. Jensen reiterated a call to the community for input. Silverglide asked about the dunes that could be affected by the Tween Waters section of the shoulder. Gooderham noted that DEP can require restoration if dunes are affected as part of their permit approval.

5. Doris Holzheimer provided a handout of a draft of hurricane preparation updates, and that the group was awaiting input from the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Captiva Frie District. Volunteers are still needed and she urged the audience to add their names to a list she handed out if they wanted to help and get her an e-mail address. The group needed volunteers for structural safety inspectors (she offered an explanation of duties) who will come back with first responders to inspect property, requires training which was scheduled for May 22 and 24.

Holzheimer handed out some hurricane preparation materials and noted some of them were available electronically, at the library and the fire house. A communication grid was being set up to notify people when a storm approaches, it would be triggered by Captiva's inclusion in the 72-hour cone of a storm track. Information will be disseminated via e-mails to existing lists. The group is working with Beth Oden to change her Web site and be sure things get published in a timely fashion. A new Web site--to be either or publish everything the group sends out. Islanders need to be sure they acquire hurricane passes from City of Sanibel; the city was taking applications now, available through South Seas Resort will provide an 800 number again, will let everyone know what it is shortly; will provide information during and after a storm. The group was looking into an information center at the Captiva library, which will have hurricane glass installed this year. The group is also looking into a hotel room off-island as a communications headquarters. We also need volunteers to act as communications coordinators, to check Web sites and send out information to the lists. Residents should send a letter to the fire dept to authorize people to check your house after the storm.

6. Gooderham summarized the status of the underground utilities project to date, that all the estimates were now in and the island was looking at roughly $6 million in construction (electric, cable, administration and land paperwork), plus a potential of more than $10 million in easement acquisition depending on how many property owners decided to take the matter to court. He said the panel needed to decide its next step, whether to move to MSTU, look at alternatives, or put the effort on hold.

Discussion ensued over who would manage the project, and Gooderham noted that the county had budgeted for a project manager but did not anticipate that person to be the hands-on manager. Among the items the panel would like to see would be the LCEC plans and some draft of the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) language; Gooderham said he could work on both of those over the summer. Stilwell asked for details as to why the panel wanted to meet with LCEC. Silverglide asked whether the island had the option to look at other utilities to provide this service, Gooderham and Paul Smart said they would need to clarify the franchise arrangement to give an accurate answer.

Pyle made a motion to move forward with the MSTU proves and pursue alternatives on management of the project; Silverglide seconded. Miville asked whether the panel could hire a manager; Gooderham said he would start research as to who does that kind of work. Smart suggested the panel contca a lawyer conversant with the state Public Service Commission's regulation of utilities and look at consultant options. Pyle asked to table her motion until June.

7. Hullar noted that bylaws for the panel had been waiting for more than a year now. He asked the panel to contact Mike Mullins to get them moving and plan a discussion at the June meeting. He felt a one-person committee was OK, but said let's get something to discuss.

8. Steve Cochlan asked to make a presentation concerning height restrictions. He provided a pair of handouts to the panel and audience, and said the current language was having a negative impact on what we can construct on the island. Once the restriction was 48 feet, now 42 feet NGVD. Any increase in FEMA requirements for elevation (as had been discussed) could further lessen options under the 42-foot cap. He was proposing 30 feet above lowest habitable floor, still about four feet less than it used to be.

Hullar noted there was a lot of emotion involved in this issue, and that the height restriction is part of the Lee Plan. He felt the problem was poor architecture, not height restrictions; there were a number of very attractive houses under the current restrictions. Many bulky or boxy homes as people decide to go the easy route. If FEMA actually raises level, he felt the panel may need to look at this. Otherwise, he didn't want to reopen this issue, as there was not much support in community at this time. Stilwell said she went through that process as well. Had to turn my second floor into essentially an attic, so I went out since I could not go up. She said she would not want to entertain opening that can of worms.

Cochlan asked what the rationale was to reduce it. Hullar said he was not sure, perhaps to reduce the size of houses. An audience member said it also was good for insurance ratings, and changes could have an island-wide impact. Pyle said she agreed with Hullar, that this was not an issue she wanted to open up and did not believe would be supported. Miville said some Captivans just want to be able to build houses like others could before the new rule was established. When the last change was made, the county just copied a Bonita Springs rule and did not confer with anyone. He said flat roofs were more expensive insurance-wise; an arched roof is 30 percent of the house, with limits it brings boxy homes. If FEMA raises elevation level, it will make it difficult to work with if you have to rebuild. He believed it needed to be looked at for safety and aesthetics. He said the panel should let Cochlan form a committee, gather some information on the issue and bring it to the community. He said Lee County was in favor of changing it to a more aesthetic and crafted ordinance. Jensen said there was no need for a committee, but instead see if you can generate an interest in the community. Stilwell reiterated this could be opening up a real can of worms, could resurrect the incorporation issue, this could be a really big thing. Miville made a motion to start a committee to look into readdressing the height ordinance to deal with the FEMA increase. It died for lack of a second.

9. Stilwell noted there were two turtle nests now, one just south of Mellow Yellow and the other on South Seas property. When the discussion turned to setting the next meetings, Hullar made a motion that the panel should have meetings on the second Tuesday of every month (if possible) regardless of whether there would be a quorum, that this was too important to inform the community to cancel. Stilwell seconded. The vote to approve was unanimous.

10. The meeting adjourned 11 a.m.

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