provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Noting the Committee of the Islands annual meeting in mid-March was the organization’s first in-person membership gathering since the pandemic began, President Larry Schopp welcomed the sizable crowd to The Community House. Before the introduction of COTI’s Citizen of the Year John McCabe and keynote speaker Chauncey Goss, Schopp provided a look back at COTI’s origins and gave an update on some of the organization’s recent activities.
COTI was formed 47 years ago by some of the same people who founded the City of Sanibel – to protect the island’s unique environment from over-development and to preserve its small town, sanctuary character. While the early focus was largely local as the City Council and Planning Commission dealt with growth-related issues, the focus currently is outward as well, as threats to the island’s water quality and local home rule have increased.
“Water quality is the number-one environmental issue we face,” said Schopp as he voiced COTI’s objections to Senate Bill 2508. In outlining the organization’s position to State Senator Ben Albritton, he wrote the bill, as originally drafted, would have undone “much of what LOSOM (Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual) was intended to do to assure fairness in the management of the Lake’s outflow and would have tied the hands of the South Florida Water Management District in its use of the best science in its recommendations to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.” Schopp pointed out the bill passed with much of the objectionable language removed. The jury is still out on how the bill will affect LOSOM, “but its sponsors knew where we stood,” said Schopp.
In his review, Schopp enumerated ways in which COTI has worked to protect Sanibel’s right to effective local home rule by opposing state laws that would have repealed or limited the city’s ability to regulate short-term rentals in ways that work for the city. COTI did support HB 105, a state law that would give local governments the right to ban smoking at public parks and beaches. That bill, he said, passed both houses of the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
“We will continue to monitor these and other issues in the coming year and look forward to participating in the upcoming Evaluation and Appraisal Review (EAR) of the Sanibel Plan,” he said.
New and returning board members
COTI Board members Carol Gestwicki, left, Ed Holden, Miriam Pepper, Arlene Dillon, Larry Schopp, Sarah Peck, Ellen Smiley, Chet Sadler, Jeff Blackman, Jon Gustafson, and Peter Walcott
After the presentation by Chauncey Goss, chair of the South Florida Water Management District, COTI members remained to vote on the appointment of directors. Elected unanimously to their first term on the board are Jeffrey Blackman, Arlene Dillon, Sarah Peck, Miriam Pepper, and Ellen Smiley.
Returning for a second term by unanimous vote are Carol Gestwicki, Jon Gustafson, Chet Sadler, and Larry Schopp. Also continuing on the board are Ed Holden and Peter Walcott.
The two members leaving the board due to term limits are Maryann Bell and Barbara Joy Cooley. Schopp thanked them for their dedication and willingness to help further COTI’s mission.