(Above and below) A proposed four-lot mini-subdivision at 3869 W. Gulf Dr. garners opposition by many who are concerned with its compliance to LDC 86-43 or appearance, size and mass of any eventual structures and whether they would be in keeping the rhythm and harmony of the existing West Gulf Drive neighborhood. It was also argued the proposed mini-subdivision would increase density, something the Sanibel Plan was designed to fight against. SC photos by Chuck Larsen Photography.
(Above and below) A proposed four-lot mini-subdivision at 3869 W. Gulf Dr. garners opposition by many who are concerned with its compliance to LDC 86-43 or appearance, size and mass of any eventual structures and whether they would be in keeping the rhythm and harmony of the existing West Gulf Drive neighborhood. It was also argued the proposed mini-subdivision would increase density, something the Sanibel Plan was designed to fight against. SC photos by Chuck Larsen Photography.

A proposed four-lot mini-subdivision at 3869 W. Gulf Dr. garnered much opposition from its neighbors and underwent intense scrutiny by Planning Commissioners – all of whom questioned its compliance to Land Development Code Section 86-43 or appearance, size and mass of structures.

Commissioners were tasked with determining whether the lots were configured to eventually accommodate appropriately-sized structures. Many in opposition argued the size of the four lots, at 78.5 feet wide each, would be noticeably smaller than the 106-plus-feet width of surrounding properties, therefore disrupting the rhythm and harmony of the West Gulf Drive neighborhood.

However, the proposed lot sizes on a total of 4.56 acres complied with the section of the LDC which states there must be one dwelling unit per acre. The application met additional requirements under the Sanibel Plan and LDC, including the availability of drainage and potable water.

This application should be approved because it complies (with the LDC),” said Steve Hartsell, attorney for applicant Swanson Family Investments. “It could have been five lots, but my clients only proposed four.” Hartsell also argued ‘disruption of harmony’ is a subjective standard and cited Florida case law against it. “This should have been approved by city staff, but we are here because of the public outcry.”

Department of Community Services Director Keith Williams took “umbrage” with Hartsell’s implication of public opinion swaying decisions and adequately defended the staff’s process.

When it comes to the Land Development Code for the city, Section 82-421 simply says ‘any application which raises questions as to the compliance with Section 86-43,’ and is a statement that stands alone. Those are the grounds on which this was brought before (Commissioners) today,” said Williams.

We know there are no structures here, but we also know that the manner in which you subdivide a parcel will drive the shape, the mass, the appearance of a structure that would subsequently be placed on it. That is what is being put before you today,” Williams concluded with an applause from the audience.

Some Commissioners and neighbors, including former Commissioner Tony Lapi, suggested dividing the parcel into three or less lots to better conform to Section 86-43. The matter was ultimately continued to the Tuesday, Dec. 11 Planning Commission meeting, when the applicants and their team are expected to return with plans for a three-lot subdivide.

This is a sizable concession (of the applicant),” said Commission Chair Philip Marks. “In the end, I think, it will be better for everyone.”

Importance of 3869 W. Gulf Drive Decision

The property, originally three lots, is the former home of Porter and Mariel Goss, one of Sanibel’s pioneer families. “There is no question that we combined lots to be a pacesetter in the neighborhood to reduce density,” Goss wrote in a letter read aloud by Dr. Stephen Brown, a former councilman and part-time mayor and current West Gulf Drive resident.

When Goss sold the home in 1997, which has been razed under a demolition permit issued in March, he fully expected it to remain as a single family unit as it is the highest and best use of the property under the Sanibel Plan.

You can imagine our shock when we saw pictures that showed the demolition and then heard about plans for putting up four separate houses,” Goss wrote. Following the letter, Brown implored the Commissioners to show “courage” as the island’s pioneers did in 1974, when Sanibel incorporated to avoid increased density.

We must fight everyday to maintain the Sanibel we promised at incorporation,” Goss wrote. “And the fight is worth it.”