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Development Changes Loom on Captiva

June 28, 2023

On June 20, SCCF attended a Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hearing to give comments on proposed amendments to the county’s Land Development Code that would affect Captiva. 

These amendments seek to remove height restrictions on Captiva and allow South Seas Island Resort (SSIR) to request increased density through a zoning change. These amendments were proposed without stakeholder input from the Captiva or Sanibel communities.

The next planned meeting to discuss the Land Development Code Amendments will be held by the Captiva Community Panel at 9 a.m. on July 5. Click this link to attend the webinar.

The June 20 hearing was well attended, with many community members taking the opportunity to express their concerns with both the substance and the method by which Lee County was trying to enact the planned amendments.  Out of all the public comments, only one was in favor of the amendments — a representative for SSIR.

“SSIR claimed that the community had been misinformed, and that the resort has no intention of constructing any 75-foot tall buildings, even if granted the ability to do so. They claim their request was only to allow them to build back post-storm and ensure resiliency for the resort,” explained SCCF Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis.

Multiple community members pointed out that SSIR neither presented plans to the community nor sought any feedback, and were asking to increase their heights and number of stories beyond the purposes of rebuilding. 

“Without involving the community, the residents of Captiva and Sanibel were left to assume the worst,” DePaolis said. “Comments also pointed out that these specific requests to increase height limitations and eliminate density restrictions could, in fact, make the resort and both islands of Sanibel and Captiva less resilient, because development of this scale and magnitude greatly endangers the resiliency of these fragile barrier islands.”

SCCF staff also participated in public comments.

SCCF CEO James Evans spoke to emphasize the need for further staff analysis of these ordinances and the impacts they would have. Coastal Resilience Manager Carrie Schuman, PhD, highlighted the need for resiliency in light of storms such as Hurricane Ian occurring more frequently and intensely in the future. She noted that reduction or elimination of density restrictions would complicate hurricane evacuations and tax infrastructure. Finally, DePaolis emphasized the environmental aspect of development changes and how these ordinances would adversely impact the Captiva and Sanibel ecosystems, as well as quality of life for residents.

Comments were also given from Homeowners Associations, Nongovernmental Organizations, private citizens, the Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, and Sanibel’s mayor, reiterating the need for more time for the Commissioners to analyze and fully understand the impacts of these amendments.

Decision Ultimately Delayed

Commissioners voted to grant a continuance on the hearing until Sept. 5 and Sept. 6 to provide more time for discussion and clarity.

“While this was not the rejection of the amendments that the residents of Captiva and Sanibel were hoping for, the continuance was still a small victory,” DePaolis said.

Both the BOCC and SSIR expressed an interest in engaging the community before Sept. 5 to ensure a solution that will benefit all stakeholders. SCCF will update our members as the plans for these meetings develop. 

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