Captiva Community Panel

MINUTES

Nov. 11, 2008

 

Attending: Ron Gibson, Rick Hayduk, Gordon Hullar, Dave Jensen, Mike Kelly, Rene Miville, Harry Silverglide, Sandy Stilwell

 

Audience: 60

 

The meeting convened at 9:05 a.m. with an introduction of panel members.

 

Blind Pass: Captiva Erosion Prevention District Commissioner Doris Holzheimer introduced district administrator Kathleen Rooker. Rooker made some brief comments and encouraged islanders with questions about the Blind Pass project to contact her at the CEPD office.

 

Robert Neal with the Lee County Division of Natural Resources began his discussion of the Blind Pass reopening project with the caveat that it’s all going to change with contractors. A schedule for the project was posted on the county project Web page, along with e-mail contact information. Regarding a no-motor zone at Wulfert Flats, that was being considered to mitigate for dredging seagrasses in the channel. A zone of 474 acres worked with the refuge and state, and we reached a management agreement with the state to restore seagrass damaged by prop scars. We needed 5 acres to mitigate dredging; that's 5 acres of actual scars, so if an area was 20% scarred we might need 20 acres total. We determined that there was not enough there to meet mitigation efforts.

 

We went ahead with a management plan, and may revisit no-motor zone between now and March; if so, we will have a public meeting to get input from the stakeholders and user groups with meetings on island and in town. Right now, there are no plans to make a no-motor zone, but we may revisit that. We intend to transplant grass from the channel to Dinkins Bayous, put it in areas where no boats go and where the water is shallow enough. Some in Dinkins by the culvert, some in Sunset Bayou, some at the entrance to Dinkins. Will make maps available by the end of this month. Hoping we won’t need a no motor zone, that the management plan will be enough.

 

Where are we going to dredge? We looked at starting on the Gulf side and coming in, to take advantage of the winter weather. Contractor is using small equipment, which can only work in calmer seas. Since we missed the weather window, we decided to come back around start on the back side and work toward the bridge to be on the Gulf by April. Dredging will start as soon as the equipment is ready, before Dec. 1. It will start in Roosevelt Channel, with a 500-foot section working to Wulfert Channel. There will be two dredges, one in Roosevelt Channel and one in the main channel working toward the bridge. The plan is to work only during daylight hours, roughly 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The contractor has authorization to work 24 hours a day if necessary to meet the 6 months schedule. If they can do that by working through the day, it's easier on equipment and crew, and allows time for repairs. Noise may be an issue for homes on Wulfert Channel. Miville noted that after the wait for this project, the sound of that engine will be music to the residents' ears.

 

Neal noted that the project timing was the worst time of year for the island, but the best time of year for environmental issues. When you have a problem, we have a problem, we’ll be out here too. Project will take 3-4 months starting in December on the inside. We'll be trucking material one week out of each month, with three trucks on the road every hour. That could change if they can move it faster. Will have traffic control to let the trucks out into the road, and there will be signs and flagmen if we’re going to disrupt traffic. They have authorization to work at night if necessary; they will work only one or the other, and obviously would prefer days. We will monitor sand loss and speed; equipment will be muffled. Trucks will come in from the Captiva side parking lot. Working with Sanibel contractor for lift station. We're working to minimize impact as much as possible. No additional vehicles expected from the project on the beach. There will be some crews on the beach, between Clam Pass and Blind Pass; beachgoers will have right of way. Contractor will not allow other vehicles to follow them onto the beach, will work with police on that and maintain entrances so no unauthorized vehicles will have access to the beach.

 

Neal said they will bury the 8-inch pipeline so, except for the hum of diesels, you won’t know what’s going on. There will be bulldozers by the beach placement area, by the Scribante house. They will begin clearing vegetation by Blind Pass soon, it will be trucked to the Gavin site to be incinerated. They're bringing in steel sheet pile to create a 2-acre holding/dewatering cell, ten feet high. Hope to keep Sanibel beach parking lot open, will have fence to force people south to keep them away from the work area. Will vibrate sheetpile into the sand, during the day only, in the next two weeks to be in the ground Dec. 10. Dredging on the back side, discharging into the cell and the beach placement area. Noise not too loud; extractor will be moving material into cell to settle out, dozers working at placement site. Backup beepers will be operational, but that's not a large disturbance.

 

A person from the Pine Tree Drive Association said he was concerned about seagrass planting in Dinkins, getting silting from the culvert. Slit will have to cleared out later. Navigation during low tide was getting difficult. They want to work with the county and the city but are concerned about the outcome. We want to do thing right environmentally, but we also want to be able to get our boats out. Neal said the work should have been coordinated better, but we didn’t have time. Our goal is to not plant in navigable waters. Can’t promise we’ll fix it but will stay with it. Believe the slitting will take care of itself once the big pass is open. Annie Vanderbilt suggested the county not plant on the shoaled area that formed once the culvert was opened, not on bars that have formed unnaturally due to the opening of the culvert. Neal said he was happy to come out with residents and mark those areas. Discussion about timing and response prior to opening. Mike Calinski suggested they move what’s there somewhere else now while the permits are in place.

 

Vanderbilt asked if people would be able to access Captiva by bridge? Neal said yes, as long as they stay out of the fencing. There will be no access via the beach. Kate Gooderham asked that the county let us know the week of traffic disruption every month, everyone’s happy to work with you as long as they know. This was a very difficult permit to get, and people are happy to see this day come. Mike Mullins asked if there would be smells associated with the dredging. Neal said the material going into cell has clay mixed in, don’t know how strong the smell will be. In that area there will be an odor…by the bridge on the Gulf side. Smell will be worst when they’re trucking it away, mixing it up and loading it. Calinksi asked if they could dredge the muck on top of shell first to clean it out. Neal said the material from the channel will be placed in the near shore near Scribante property, so contact with air will be minimal. Much is going to the beach. Very slit-y, but beach suitable. Bill Vanderbilt wanted to thank the CEPD for their involvement, Alison Hagerup’s work especially.

 

Minutes: A motion was made by Hullar (Kelly second) to approve the panel minutes from June, July, August and September; unanimous approval.

 

DOT issues: Silverglide noted there had been discussion at last month's panel meeting to await county input before further action. The issue of changing the speed limit n Captiva Drive was put to rest at the last meeting, made recommendation to leave speed limits as is. We asked Harry Campbell with Lee DOT and LCSO Lt. Joe Poppalardo to attend this meeting to help in the discussion  about enforcement of golf cart use on the island. Silverglide was interested in allowing the use of carts at night when equipped with proper equipment – brakes, windshield, headlights, etc. Also wanted to discuss extending the allowed use of carts on Captiva drive from the first to the second S curve to include Tween Waters Inn. He felt that with the addition of the safety lane, coexistence was now possible on the Tween Waters stretch. Campbell noted that a countywide golf cart ordinance got wrapped up in Boca Grande issues, dispute was over licensure for 16-year-olds on Captiva. Captivans were OK with operators being age 16 with license, this was enforceable and safer. He suggested the panel take the last iteration of that ordinance for review and make recommendation to poll people on Captiva to agree to that ordinance.

 

Mullins asked if road-ready vehicles were not an issue. Silverglide said low-speed vehicles (LSV) were already legal; if they had a VIN number you can register them and use them. Golf carts can do 18 mph, necessary equipment is easy to afford. Mullins asked why not just buy an NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) or LSV? Silverglide said the problem was their cost and ability to register carts. Campbell said there was a safety issue with NEV vs. carts. Seat belts had been removed from final draft of the ordinance, there were legal issues with mandating seat belts – crashworthiness. Silverglide said there is a certain risk to any vehicle. When operated responsibly, golf carts can benefit community. Mullins said what was being sought was allowing operators to be 16 years of age with a valid driver’s license. Silverglide said that gives LSCO something that's enforceable. He wanted to poll the community and, if the idea is approved, then go to Lee BoCC and ask for a Captiva-only ordinance. Campbell said the current ordinance is identical to state statutes. Same legal basis, not out too late at night until age 18, best we can do legally without an unreasonable challenge being placed against us. Mullins said if the panel was polling the island, why not ask about other areas? Silverglide said they could do that as a second question. Hullar said he did not remember reviewing the ordinance. Silverglide said the county could circulate the document to panel members for review. Hullar said they could poll on the speed issue as well, particularly on the south end of the island.

 

Campbell said the proposed ordinance regulate carts, but is not about where carts are allowed. That would take an engineering study to determine if they’re safe. Average speed on Captiva Drive has come down a little bit since the safety shoulder was added, fewer people speeding. We’d like input from the community before we make those decisions. Look to community to see if they support additional regulations. Hullar suggested the panel get documents, form a committee today with Silverglide leading it, then come to the next panel meeting with a proposal we can deal with. Let's see if we can make the decisions ourselves vs. polling the island. Silverglide said the county requested the polling. Miville noted that the panel bylaws say we will poll community, bring out the facts and seek consensus.

 

Silverglide said enforcement not a problem, the issue is it’s a restrictive use of carts, even in the Village at night. The cart zone is working well, time to take the next step. Mullins aid is was two parallel things that can be done, county efforts with the survey process. Silverglide said we were there with the county two years ago, but Boca Grande changed the direction of the ordinance. Poppalardo said that was a countywide ordinance, not Captiva specific. Campbell offered a discussion of the ordinance's evolution. It had been tabled due to Boca Grande resistance, they wanted to allow 14-year-olds to drive carts. Is it beneficial to community to have 14-year-olds driving carts, with those safety issues? There's no easy solution, we need to find a balance.

 

Kelly asked is the county will pass a 16-year-old ordinance? Poppalardo said it was not certain, the age of responsibility is 14-16. The county will look at a Captiva-specific ordinance, not a countywide ordinance. Campbell said specific regulations may be appropriate for Captiva, but you'd need to bring the consensus of the community to the commissioners for their decision. Need community support to get board approval. Silverglide said he hoped for rules that were enforceable, safe and that give the community what it wants. Kelly said the panel's position should be in two pieces: Make ordinance available for next meeting, then determine what next step will be, plebiscite everything if necessary. Kelly made a motion have a draft golf-cart ordinance available prior to the next meeting and review it to determine if it’s supportable by the panel. Kelly made a second motion to ask Harry Campbell to do an engineering study on how extensive golf cart use should be geographically on the island, to see if there’s a value in it engineering standpoint. Silverglide said no motion was necessary for the first action.

 

Colin Kilgore asked to speak, noting he was a resident for 27 years, a volunteer firefighter, but not a property owner. He felt this was a safety issue, and had had four incident with carts… all underage drivers at night after dark. The current cart zone is being violated on a couple of occasions. People in carts don’t seem to think they need to obey the road rules. He asked the panel to uphold the side of the wage earner and offered thanks to the veterans that are here today. He said there are 500 employees at South Seas, Tween Waters, eight restaurants, shops, contractors, fire dept., landscapers, etc., who depend on this roadway every day, have an 1-1.5 hour commute to get home. Why instigate any more road rage in these people than is there now? Road rage a reality, golf carts slow people down. Why inconvenience them so that a few people can have the novelty of using their golf carts in the Village. I drive slow anyway in the Village, that’s OK. But to extend the zone out further down Captiva Drive will be inconvenient. Using the ecological card in favor of carts is abusing it, since they’re not ecologically pure. If you're worry about the environment, walk or ride a bike.

 

Larry Anderson said he was an owner at Lands End, and that he agreed with that. He had to drive through a lot of the golf cart area, sees them being used grossly irresponsibly out there. Overloaded carts, difference in behavior between owners and visitors. Last thing we want to do is expand this area. Hullar said he wanted to cut this discussion off, have a discussion at the next meeting when we have an ordinance in front of us. Campbell noted that extending the use is engineering, prefer to do that kind of study at the height of season. Hullar restated the motion and offered a second, to look at ordinance at next meeting. Approval was unanimous.

 

South Seas: Byron Blount said he had come back before the panel to offer a plan update on the issues they had brought to the community earlier in the year. In reaction to comments at the previous meeting, they had looked at the location of the employee housing project. The need for on-site housing was reducing, they had hired more workers who were already in the community, increased van and car pools. On-site units were more for managers who needed to stay on site temporarily, not for full-time resident employees. Also to attract interns for summer. In the previous iteration of the plan, housing had been proposed behind the reception building. Now they wanted to co-locate it on the arrival side of the proposed boutique hotel. Regular hotel rooms would be occupied by employees as needed, so guests and employees would be intermingled. Blount said the neighboring homeowner associations were OK with this new proposal. Of the 80 units in the proposed hotel, 40 of those would be available for use by employees. Also, the proposed mixed-use project at the marina on the north end will be put on hold for now; based on economic issues due to retail softness. Blount reiterated that these plans involved no additional density or traffic, and compliance with all existing rules.

 

On other issues, Blount said that the trolley going outside the gates was being discontinued for now, will use vans during season and have a more concierge situation where transportation can be arranged for specific parties and events. We also looking at greener options. We made changes in use of existing employee housing within two weeks of the last panel meeting based on comments there. He also said commuter van pools were seeing a rise in demand, and they will add more vans now. The Holy Smokes BBQ restaurant was now open, and the family slide pool under construction. More details were online at www.southseascommunity.org

 

Hullar asked about the schedule for the proposed hotel? Blount said it depends on county approvals. It was not going to happen during season, 2010 date was the earliest possible. Jeff Shuff asked about the status of the proposed spa; Blount said it was still coming. Mullins asked about the beach parking area, what’s envisioned there? Blount said the CEPD owns that access, but there had  been some discussions about trading locations to the old Shirley’s lot. Someone asked about the mini-golf proposal, and Blount noted that it had met with objections internally so they were not pursuing it. The Mariner project still pending in that area. Eventually, he expected a spa on the tip of that parcel, some low-density estate lots possible. Looking at a kids play area in place of mixed use area by the marina. An audience member expressed thanks from Tennis Villas HOA for moving the employee housing project out of our area.

 

Hurricane Response Committee: Holzheimer said hopefully Paloma will be the last storm of the season. There would be a committee meeting next week, so she expected more information at the next panel meeting.

 

Gibson asked to recognize Terry Brennan with WGCU TV, who was in attendance. Gibson said he had been approached to work on a documentary history of Captiva for public TV. He encourage the audience to stay after the panel meeting was done, when Brennan would discuss what this is all about. Brennan said the station hoped to get this accomplished by springtime. He described previous documentary efforts to capture history of this area; they plan to air the Captiva program Feb. 27 and were already working on it.

 

Financial report: Stilwell said there was $19,000 in bank, need more funding. She asked whether the panel should send out a letter or hold an event, and noted that a mailing could be tied it into any poll mailing. The goal would be to not spend a lot of money to raise money.

 

Water quality: Dr. Loren Coen with the SCCF Marine Lab introduced Mark Thompson, formerly with the Florida DEP but now with the lab and working on the water monitoring project for Captiva. Coen said they were starting sampling this month, and had selected sites. Thompson had established a database to capture data, select sites to sample this year and next. Coen said the lab had accessed all existing water quality data in our area, analyzed it for pollutants and sources of concern. They identified sites which were the most logical places to sample, 22 sites selected; they would identify pollutants and draw conclusions as to sources. Samples would be done bimonthly, three times when it was dry at rainfall events, and three times during the wet season at rainfall events. Starting next week. The lab database contained some 500,000 records, local, state and federal sources. They planned a more extensive presentation at upcoming meetings. Coen also mentioned that islanders could access the lab's RECON system online, and that they needed volunteers but needed to maintain a chain of custody for samples.

 

There followed a discussion of Year 1 vs. Year 2 funding issues for the project. Gooderham noted that FY 2009 funding was secure, but that the application for FY 2010 funding would be turned in in February. The availability of funds would depend on the decision about how the Tourist Development Council bed tax proceeds would be apportioned to pay for the new Red Sox stadium. With the commitment to increase funding to 20% from the current 13.4%, it was assumed the difference would have to be taken from the Beaches & Shoreline Fund, which would reduce funding for those projects. The TDC was meeting with county commissioners Dec. 2 to discuss funding, and it was expected that the criteria for beach/shoreline projects would be tightened to focus more tightly on beach efforts and make it easier to eliminate some marginal projects that had been funded. Gooderham promised to brief panelists and islanders on funding changes, and noted that the county commissioners who had been contacted prior to the Red Sox funding decision had promised to protect beaches as well.

 

With no other business, the panel meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m.

 

-- Ken Gooderham