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Lack of height language could pave the way for much taller buildings on Captiva

 Family owned Captiva Cruises celebrated its return after effects from Hurricane Ian with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and boat tour. The cruise excursion service has operated on Captiva Island since 1986.
Tom James
/
WGCU
Family owned Captiva Cruises celebrated its return after effects from Hurricane Ian with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and boat tour. The cruise excursion service has operated on Captiva Island since 1986.

The Lee County commission's vote on removing height language from its code has islanders roiled. Litigation and state legislation is expected.

In spite of widespread opposition from the Sanibel Captiva island communities, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to remove language in its land development code that says buildings on Captiva Island should be one or two stories.

A legal showdown and Florida legislative action are expected.

The lone commissioner to vote against the measure was Commissioner Kevin Ruane, a former mayor of Sanibel who represents the coastal communities.

It was Ruane in January who first floated the idea of reviewing Lee’s code to reflect the need to have more resilient buildings in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Staff came back by removing language and allowing for three floors of livable space instead of two floors, which allows for an increased population density of 50 percent.

The measure also gives South Seas Island Resort the ability to build up to 75 feet high.

In addition to Ruane, many called out the county, including a state agency that said the county was claiming resiliency when all along it was about allowing a resort to have higher density.

 “These amendments, will, as the other gentleman indicated, is essentially a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's the camel’s nose under the tent, and it must not be permitted to happen,” said William Hoyt Ollinger.

Ollinger is a hurricane-displaced islander. His comments were part of the more than two hours of public comment where islanders implored the commissioners to consider the negative impacts on the fragile environment, water and sewage infrastructure, as well as the safety of other islanders when it comes to evacuation

“Now, if these arguments don't convince you, I think you need to look at the fact that this could be a very big problem for the commission, if they do approve this. There are many people who are interested in pursuing litigation, legislation, and perhaps even incorporation to prevent this from happening to prevent this beautiful gem that we have here in Lee County, from being despoiled by excessive excess development and excess density,” he said.

Aside from commissioner Ruane, there was little discussion by the remaining commissioners before the vote.

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Eileen Kelley