EDITOR'S NOTE: The following report from the Rotary Club of Sanibel Captiva meeting at the Sanibel Community House on Friday, Oct. 16, was submitted by Shirley Jewell of the Rotary Club.

With just over a month to go, hurricane season in the U.S. is just about over for this year. It’s been a pretty quiet year on the home front for any kind of bad weather on Sanibel; but many of us still have enough memory intact to remember back to Hurricane Charley in 2004. Why bring that up now? Well those memories might include how we felt returning to Sanibel and Captiva and looking at all the damage done during this major storm. We were lucky but we also had to cleanup, restore, and in some cases, rebuild our properties. On Sanibel we had an amazing team of city employees, led by Sanibel’s remarkable City Manager, Judy Zimomra tackling the job to reopen the Island, clear the roads, evaluating and securing properties that were damaged, getting utilities going again, and setting in place recovery plans.

City of Sanibel Planning Department Director Jim Jordan was Rotary’s guest speaker on Friday morning.

Jim is almost a native of Sanibel having lived on the Island since he was three years old. He has witnessed the incorporation of the City and all of the changes the city has gone through over the years. The fact is he has worked in the Planning Department for the last 30 years becoming its planning director in 2009.

It’s been an incredible 10-year’s plus on Sanibel, since Charley and with the City Council and City Manager undertaking the tasks of improving on rebuild and redeveloping codes, non-conforming building regulations, Sanibel’s density plan, resort area rebuilding and improvements, etc.

Five years after Charley, the Island itself was looking better, trees were finally growing along Periwinkle and things were getting back to a normal routine but it had become obvious during this recovery process that some of our non-conforming buildings on Island, particularly in our resort areas, were in need of improvement and some of the City regulations in place had discouraged resorts and short-term rentals from reinvesting money into these properties and the time to do this was at hand.

The City Planning Department has certainly been kept busy with these important improvements and changes to City codes and regulations keeping in full view the Sanibel Plan, Federal Emergency Management and National Flood programs, state building codes and the important value of the natural environment on Sanibel and the very reason people visit and move to this unusual Island.

Transparent and open planning meetings have improved the understanding and value of changes to Planning Department codes, ordinances, and regulations particularly to pre-existing non-conforming properties on Island. Exploration of this topic was thoroughly addressed and pre-existing non-conforming property owners now feel comfortable investing in the updating of their properties particularly in resort and short-term rental unit areas.

As an example the Sun-Dial Resort and Spa is looking amazing and certainly regulation waivers were needed from the City on building codes for this pre-existing non-conforming property. Small non-conforming properties such as Huxter’s Market and Deli are also receiving waivers for construction improvements. This is a win/win change…property footprints are not changed, just overall updated improvements to buildings are being made. The improvements of our Island businesses are good investments for everyone…our visitors are an important part of the economy of our Island. Travelers have a wide variety of places to visit but although they travel here for our natural and beautiful environment, they also want to have a remarkable vacation in updated vacation properties and an enjoyable restaurant experiences.

Things do change in time, these are good changes, and Jim and his staff are doing an incredible job. Yes, I know they are a pain sometimes but… No pain, No gain…as they say.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7 a.m. Friday mornings at the Sanibel Community House, Periwinkle Way. Guests are always welcomed.