On Tuesday, June 20, senior staff from Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation delivered testimony to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners regarding proposed controversial amendments to Lee County’s Land Development Code (LDC). Land Development Codes contain regulations governing land use and property development by providing guidelines for zoning, natural resource use, and other permitted activities. An LDC can help to support a community’s goals and objectives and protect public safety and environmental health.
Lee County’s proposed amendments include raising height limits across Captiva to 35 rather than 28 feet above base flood elevation, removing restrictions that cap housing at two stories, allowing greater density through a zoning change at South Seas Island Resort, and excluding the resort from the height rules that apply to the rest of Captiva. These amendments have been proposed without stakeholder input from the Captiva or Sanibel residents.
The Lee County LDC is intended to establish “the minimum requirements adopted for the promotion of the public health, safety, comfort, convenience, and general welfare.” There is concern that currently proposed amendments to the LDC would result in harmful impacts to both Captiva’s and Sanibel’s resilience and health and their future sustainability.
Following public comment on a motion for a 90-day continuance, the Lee BOCC voted to hold public hearings during its board meetings on September 5th and 6th. In addition, the proposed changes across Lee County will be separated from those proposed for South Seas Island Resort.
Letters of opposition to the proposed amendments have been submitted from local leadership, business groups, conservation organizations, homeowners’ associations, and private citizens. The groups cite concerns about the impact of increased density on emergency evacuation time for residents on both islands, as traffic congestion could trap people in harm’s way. Density increases could also hinder Captiva’s septic to sewer conversion project as it is based on current population statistics, designed to protect water quality in light of expected future sea level rise.
Additionally, allowing for more intense development will jeopardize the islands’ natural wetlands, dune systems, and other native vegetation that provide low-cost, natural wind and wave protection. These important areas protect water quality and are the backbone of the local eco-based tourism industry.
CEO James Evans thanked the commissioners for taking more time to assess the proposed changes and noted, “We would really like to see a full staff analysis of the impacts of the Land Development Code changes on the communities affected that would include a traffic study, evacuation plans as it relates to hurricanes and impacts to the infrastructure.”
Learn more about the proposed changes and their associated implications online in this recorded June 12 program hosted by the Captiva Civic Association and stay updated about future opportunities for public comment on the Sanibel Captive Conservation Association website.
To call or email your concerns to Lee County Commissioners, please click here.