(Above) Captiva Community Panel members David Mintz and Mike Mullins listen to comments about fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge. (Below, left)  Lee County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sawicki injects some humor in a discussion about regulating noise on Captiva. (Below, right) Captiva resident Tom Libonati urges Panel members to consider the safety ramifications involving motorists in a discussion about fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge. SC photos by David Rohn
(Above) Captiva Community Panel members David Mintz and Mike Mullins listen to comments about fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge. (Below, left) Lee County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sawicki injects some humor in a discussion about regulating noise on Captiva. (Below, right) Captiva resident Tom Libonati urges Panel members to consider the safety ramifications involving motorists in a discussion about fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge. SC photos by David Rohn

Members of the Captiva Community Panel responded to a message coming through loud and clear at the Panel’s monthly meeting Tuesday (Jan. 8) – that islanders want a sensible and effective noise ordinance.

The Panel approved, in concept, a proposal that would base enforcement of the island’s noise rules on distance rather than decibel levels. It is a decision that has to be finalized as part of an ongoing Captiva code review process.

Panel President David Mintz noted that the community now operates under a Lee County noise ordinance based on varying maximum decibel levels at certain times of the day.

But to determine decibel levels, you have to have a decibel meter,” he added. “And to enforce the law, police have to have a decibel meter with them. If you are a homeowner, you don’t know if there is a violation or not.”

Mintz argued that it would be far simpler to do as communities such as Sanibel and Naples have done, which is to base noise levels on distance instead of decibels.

Noting there is general agreement on Captiva that amplified noise should shut down at 10 p.m., Mintz suggested making it a violation if the offending noise is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet between the hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and through noon on Sunday.

He said such an approach would be understandable to everyone – “all you have to do is stand 50 feet away and see if it is noisy.”

Others suggested it also is an approach that would work both in the village area of the community, where houses and buildings are close together, and in the outlying areas where they are farther apart.

Lee County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sawicki applauded the approach, remarking, “It’s helpful for two reasons. First, you can tell if there is a probable violation even if you don’t have a decibel meter. And second, it makes it easier for people to understand what is a violation and when a violation is occurring.”

Sawicki said noise isn’t typically a major problem on the island, with his office receiving between a complaint twice a week and one every other week. He added that when deputies respond, most people are apologetic and quickly turn the volume down.

Asked what would happen if he responded and someone took the position their noise wasn’t offensive, Sawicki quipped, “I’ll stand there all night and talk them into submission.”

He also applauded the Panel for retaining the existing decibel limits as a backup if deputies need to take the matter to court.

To a resident who voiced concern about calling deputies out in borderline situations where the music or noise is mildly annoying, Sawicki smiled and replied, “I’d rather come out and deal with the problem than have you descend slowly into madness.”

The Panel approved a motion to proceed with finalizing a law that would make it illegal to emit excessively loud noise that can plainly be heard 50 feet away from its source on adjacent property.

The proposed measure would exempt permitted noise on resorts such as South Seas and Tween Waters.

Another issue up for consideration during the code revision process that also generated some noise at the meeting was the subject of fishing on the Blind Pass Bridge.

Although the issue didn’t generate much response on a Panel community survey, Panel member Mike Mullins, who lives near the bridge, said that’s because most islanders don’t live in the area where the fishing takes place.

Complaints about fishing from the bridge ran the gamut from anglers and their gear blocking the pedestrian paths, to litter, fishermen trespassing on neighboring docks, birds getting caught on fishing tackle hanging from overhead utility lines and safety concerns for motorists using the bridge.

Sawicki said most of the anglers he has encountered aren’t from Sanibel or Captiva, and a few arrests have been made for gang members with outstanding warrants or people with warrants for home invasions.

Several residents urged looking at compromise solutions such as more accessible fishing areas near the bridge but not on it, or allowing fishing on only one side of the bridge. One proposal called for putting up gates to close adjacent parking lots at night and discourage night fishing from the bridge.

There was debate about whether Captiva could unilaterally ban fishing on the entire bridge, including Sanibel’s half of it. The consensus was that solutions would have to involve Sanibel, Lee County and the Department of Transportation.

The Panel approved a motion to hire a consultant to come up with proposals to eliminate fishing from the bridge and create alternate and accessible fishing areas near it.

In other Panel developments:

  • The panel re-elected Mintz as its president; Mike Boris as vice president; Mullins as secretary; and Tom Rathbone as treasurer.

  • Captiva Fire Chief Jeff Pawul, right, said firefighters will be engaging in fire hydrant maintenance, and urged islanders to cut back vegetation and keep at least a 3-foot open barrier around fire hydrants so they are visible to firefighters during emergencies. Noting a recent boat fire, he also warned against setting a boat that has caught fire at a dock adrift by untying it, adding, “Then you have a 5-ton bonfire that is adrift and out of control.”

  • Captiva Erosion Prevention District Administrator Carolyn Weaver said 137 of 277 registered voters on Captiva have responded to a straw poll about a proposed beach restoration project, with 199 in favor of it, 16 opposed and 2 undecided. She also said the CEPD is considering diagonal paths to the island’s beaches to reduce flooding during storms, tsunamis and high tides.

  • The Panel’s Wastewater Committee, which is looking at how to deal with sewage on the island for the next three decades, will host a community meeting Jan 23, at 7 p.m., at the Captiva Civic Center to discuss an engineering report and get feedback about the issue of septic systems vs. sewers on the island. Mintz said the community also needs to study how existing septic systems are functioning, whether they are leaching nutrients into surrounding waters and the implications of sea-level rise on septic systems over the next three decades.

  • The Panel began creating a new committee to study the issue of how to fortify the island – especially the bayside of the island – against sea-level rise.

  • It was announced that Lee County will build and maintain an expanded 6-foot wide pedestrian path along Captiva Drive from South Seas Island Resort to Andy Rosse Lane if the Panel comes up with a design and engineering study for it. Mintz said bids are being sent out for the study, adding to laughter from the audience, “Hopefully, we’ll get it done in our lifetimes.”

  • Panel member Dave Jensen said there appears to be an increase of iguanas on the island, and urged the community to consider what, if anything, should be done about it.

  • There was discussion about the need for property owners to trim vegetation back from the shoulder along Captiva Drive so it can safely be used by bikers and pedestrians, the need for better communication with islanders when hurricanes strike, and the possibility of creating a Municipal Service Taxing Unit that would allow local residents to tax themselves to provide a means of stable funding for the Panel.