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Sanibel council voices opposition to raising homes in Captiva after Hurricane Ian

In the midst of grappling with its own building height limitation and flood zones, members of the Sanibel City Council are sending a strong message of opposition to its counterparts in the county who are considering a plan to allow an additional level of living space for homes on Captiva Island.

In the midst of grappling with its own building height limitation and flood zones, members of the Sanibel City Council are sending a strong message of opposition to its counterparts in the county who are considering a plan to allow an additional level of living space for homes on Captiva Island.

This comes as islanders are building back their homes and lives after the catastrophic category 5 storm washed ashore last September.

Islanders are overwhelming against changing the charm of the islands by allowing for high-rises. Doing so, would also be detrimental to environment and make hurricane evacuations even more difficult, the public has clamored for months.

Pre-Hurricane Ian, all but a handful of homes on Sanibel Island were one- to two-stories tall. The city of Sanibel is expected to allow for a modest increase of up to 6.7 feet so that residents can build back with similar homes that now must be raised to meet base flood elevation requirements.

This could mean some homes, especially on the beach-front, east-end of Sanibel could rise 18 ½ feet from the ground.

The Sanibel City Commission will vote on Nov. 20 on the modest increase. If approved and regardless of required base flood elevations, homes may not be more than 45 feet from the pitch of the roof to the ground. Under this scenario, that would allow for a structure to be no more than 26. 5 feet in height.
Unincorporated Captiva Island, which is governed by Lee County, currently restricts that homes be no more than 28 feet above base flood elevation. Under a plan being considered by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 6, homes could be 35 above base flood elevation, effectively giving home owners and developers the opportunity to build an additional level of living space.

Sanibel voted unanimously Tuesday evening in favor of a resolution opposing the proposal for Captiva Island.

If Sanibel Island leaders and residents have any sway, that didn’t change the mind of the majority of Lee commissioners in early September when they voted to exempt South Seas Island Resort from its current height and density requirements. This would allow the resort on the northern tip of Captiva to build back its buildings up to 45 to 75 feet above base-flood elevation.

The South Seas exemption and proposal before the County Commission come as leaders across the region grapple with how to build back communities that are intended to be more resilient to more intense storms and flooding.

Sanibel City Council
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WGCU

The state Department of Commerce came down hard on the county last month saying its South Seas exemption has nothing to do with resiliency and everything to do with increasing density on the island.

“The amendment appears to fly a false flag of “resilience” as primary purpose. When in reality the amendment is clearly at least in part for the purpose of an increase in hotel room density,” the letter states. “Whether or not an increase in hotel room density is appropriate is for the community to decide. Rather we are simply urging you to have a transparent discussion with the community about the actual purpose of the amendment.”

Sanibel City Councilwoman Holly Smith said she was pleasantly surprised that the state took the stance that she and a legion of others on Sanibel and Captiva have been saying all along. She vowed to keep up the fight.

“We are being vocal and we will continue to do so because I think it is extremely important,” Smith said.

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Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Eileen Kelley