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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida lawmaker is no longer pushing to designate Captiva as a conservation area


State Rep. Adam Botana says he's taking a wait and see approach on the matter.

State Representative Adam Botana assured Sanibel and Captiva residents last year he was in their corner and would fight to preserve the fragile ecosystem and blunt any potential excessive growth on the far-end of the chain of islands.

His name was behind a proposed bill that if passed by the Legislature and then the voters, would declare Captiva Island a conservation area – keeping low-density in perpetuity.

Another Lee barrier island to the north, Boca Grande, has retained its small-town charm for decades after the Legislature declared it a conservation area in the 1980s.

Botana’s proposed bill was announced as the new owners of South Seas Island Resort were hoping to get released from strict height and density requirements already in place on Captiva.

As expected, the county gave the nod to South Seas.

But residents still had hope that Botana’s bill could scale back South Seas higher-density and higher buildings plans.

Now month into the three-month-long Legislative session and Botana tells said he is no longer going to introduce the conservation area bill.

Botana says he’s concerned about the barrier islands, but the timing wasn’t right. He said he is taking a wait-and-see approach with the county.

No longer shackled by county codes, particularly no more than three units per acre -- a single hotel room is a unit -- South Seas wants to raise density from 247 units to 707. That's a 187% increase in units.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. The resort also wants to add an additional third floor of livable space to its condos. Under newer codes, buildings not previously grandfathered in were to have two floors of livable space.

South Seas has submitted plans that if approved, allows its buildings to rise some 64 feet from the ground. That's nearly double what was allowed.

“And we're just keeping an eye on see what the county does. You know, we don't want to have a broad brush when it comes to, you know, legislation. We do that enough in Tallahassee want to make sure we let their people do their jobs. But if obviously, there's something they're not doing right, we'll make sure to step in and take care of,” Botana said.

Botana’s term expires in November. He said there is always the possibility introducing a local bill of next year.

“…… So it will be a year but we'll be keeping an eye on everything,” he said. “ Everyone from the governor's office on down -- everybody is keeping an eye on what's going on in Lee County.”

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Eileen Kelley