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Protect Captiva Corrects Statements by South Seas

April 18, 2024
South Seas 1 1800

In its letter to South Seas homeowners, some of which was reprinted in the Santiva Chronicle, the new owners of South Seas distort the facts while criticizing community groups working to “Protect Captiva” from overdevelopment on South Seas. We take this opportunity to correct the record.

1. South Seas writes: Last December, South Seas unveiled a Redevelopment Plan that would maintain the historic character and coastal charm that defines Captiva while rebuilding to new federal standards.

The facts are: Last December, South Seas unveiled a plan to replace its 247 hotel rooms and employee housing units with 707 condominiums and hotel units. The proposal would increase density on South Seas from 912 units to 1,347 units – a 48% increase. The increase in density is inconsistent with the historic character and coastal charm of South Seas, and has nothing to do with new federal standards.

2. South Seas writes: Plans call for rebuilding structures up to 45 feet above the minimum permittable habitable floor which mirrors the existing outlying suburban height restriction, and include up to three stories over parking or commercial space.

The facts are: South Seas proposes to increase the height of its own buildings to well over the height currently permitted on South Seas. And, building structures on South Seas up to 45 feet above the minimum permittable habitable floor, and up to 65 feet in height, does not mirror Captiva’s existing rules and is not currently permitted anywhere else on Captiva.

3. South Seas writes: If the past 19 months have taught us anything, it’s that our community thrives when we’re all on one team working toward a common goal.

The facts are: Over the course of those 19 months, the developer and its agents met with Lee County without any community input to amend Captiva’s Land Development Code to exempt its own development from the height and hotel density rules that apply to all other property owners on Captiva. No teamwork was coming from South Seas.

4. South Seas writes: Since the hurricane, we have strongly advised our neighbors and surrounding communities to [adhere to FEMA requirements]. However, rather than join us in advocating to ensure future structures are built above FEMA flood requirements, many community groups and various HOAs within South Seas have focused their efforts on challenging South Seas for following the rules.

The facts are: At no time did community groups or HOAs within South Seas challenge South Seas for following the FEMA rules. Rather, the community challenged South Seas for increasing building heights and density that had nothing to do with FEMA flood requirements. Increasing the number of habitable floors above base flood elevation is only about increasing revenue at the expense of our fragile barrier island environment.

5. South Seas writes: That it is why it’s especially upsetting to learn that Captiva is at risk of losing their FEMA insurance discounts. South Seas repeatedly raised this specific concern last year and was accused of “flying the false flag of resiliency” when, in fact, we had been raising the actual flag of resiliency.

The facts are: FEMA and Lee County seem to be working out their differences so that the county (including Captiva) can retain its FEMA insurance discounts of 25 percent. However, it was Florida’s Department of Commerce that accused the county of “flying the false flag of resilience” when it amended Captiva’s regulations after the hurricane for the purpose of increasing hotel room density on South Seas. What was especially upsetting to the community were the efforts by South Seas to use the devastation of the hurricane to change the long-standing height and density rules on Captiva for its own benefit.

6. South Seas writes: It is important to note that South Seas funded the Resiliency Plan for the entire island of Captiva, a plan that was completed just days before Hurricane Ian made landfall. We did this because we were surprised that community groups with a purported mission to “protect Captiva” had never pursued a resiliency plan to better understand what’s needed – and needs – to be done to fully protect the island.

The facts are: South Seas owners were surprised because they had no idea what was taking place in the Captiva community since they made little effort to work with the community after they purchased the resort. The Captiva Community Panel had contracted with Integral Consulting to complete a vulnerability assessment on the bayside of the island that was most vulnerable to flooding. Presentations of the vulnerability assessment and resiliency options were presented to the community in a public meeting at the Captiva Civic Association.

At the same time that South Seas was doing its own plan, the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, working in consultation with SCCF and the Captiva Community Panel, contracted with Aptim, the award-winning environmental solutions firm responsible for past beach renourishments on Captiva, to develop a coastal resiliency assessment for Captiva. The Aptim assessment has been the basis for new grants and further resiliency planning for our island.

7. South Seas writes: While FEMA works through this challenge, we would encourage local community and conservation groups to leverage their donor funding and support of the community to fully adopt the plans outlined in the Resiliency Plan, which South Seas donated to them prior to Hurricane Ian.

The facts are: Captiva’s community organizations and conservation groups will continue to develop their vulnerability assessments and resiliency plans for our island that were commenced before the new South Seas owners purchased the resort. At the same time, the “Protect Captiva” coalition will continue to do everything possible to prevent overdevelopment on South Seas and the rest of Captiva – overdevelopment that will make Captiva more vulnerable and less resilient in the future.


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