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Draft bill being considered to keep Captiva building heights lower following Hurricane Ian

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WGCU
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Southwest Florida’s Legislative Delegation will consider a draft bill that could stymie attempts build considerably taller homes and buildings on Captiva Island, as the island community and other barrier island town rebuild after Hurricane Ian.

Southwest Florida’s Legislative Delegation will consider a draft bill that could stymie attempts build considerably taller homes and buildings on Captiva Island, as the island community and other barrier island town rebuild after Hurricane Ian.

The draft bill creating the Captiva Island Conservation Area Act is modeled after the Gasparilla Island Conservation District Actwhich has protected building heights and density on Boca Grande since the 1980s.

A majority of the eight-member delegation must agree to move forward with the draft bill before it can make its way through the legislative process. The 2024 legislative session begins in January.

A delegation meeting is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 30 in Room AA-177 in the Nursing Building at Florida Southwestern State College, 8099 College Parkway in Fort Myers.

Rep. Adam Botana is sponsoring the bill. If passed into law as is, the current height restrictions on Captiva Island would stay in place. The draft bill is in response to the Lee County’s efforts to increase building heights and density on Captiva Island.

In spite of wide-spread opposition — including a petition with some 13,600 signatures — a majority of the Lee County commissioners in September agreed to exempt South Seas Island Resort from codes that restrict density to no more than three habitable units — this includes hotel rooms — per acre.

It would also allow the island resort at the tip of an 18-mile-long hurricane evacuation route through Sanibel and Captiva islands, to no longer be restricted to building heights of 28 feet above flood elevation, and instead give builders the ability to rise to 35 feet above base flood elevation. This change permits the construction of a third habitable floor on Captiva homes.

On top of this, South Seas can request buildings between 45 and 75 feet above base flood elevation. Only Commissioner Kevin Ruane voted no to the measures.

Now the Lee County Board of County Commissioners will consider similar changes for the entire island of Captiva when it meets to vote on the matter Dec. 6.

Should the Commission vote in favor of having a more permissible building height, it’s unclear what, if anything, Botana’s local bill could do to unravel that.

If Botana’s bill does make it through the Legislature and is signed by the governor, then the matter will need voter approval, according to a draft of the bill.

If the matter becomes law, maximum building heights would continue at no more than 28 feet above base flood elevation and the density would remain at no more than three units per acre.

The draft bill received full support of the Sanibel Island City Commission which on Monday agreed to allow a slight increase in its building heights – of no more than 6 feet 7 inches – to allow for homes destroyed by the hurricane to be built back while taking into consideration current federal flood elevation requirements. Under the new measure, homes could not be taller than 45 feet from the pitch of the roof to the ground.

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Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Eileen Kelley