by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Sanibel Planning Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to continue the hearing on a revised conditional use permit which included rental of up to three camper van style recreational vehicles by Sanibel Vacations at its location in Palm Ridge Place on Palm Ridge Road.
City staff recommended denial of the proposed Class B RV rental service based on insufficient floor area, as parking spaces count as commercial floor area under the Land Development Code.
But at least two of the commissioners, Matt Kirchner and Ty Symroski, indicated they were in favor of approval. “I can understand the business model, but am worried about respecting the floor area definition,” said Symroski.
City Attorney John Agnew told commissioners they are “obligated” to follow the LDC irrespective of whether or not they agree with it and there is “nothing ambiguous about this particular code.”
Commission Chair Roger Grogman, who voted against the motion to continue the hearing, said approval was “problematic” because “clearly we have established square footage at this location.” He indicated the application should be denied.
Sanibel Resident and Committee of the Islands President Larry Schopp said COTI opposed the application regardless of floor space ratio, but on the grounds of the transportation element of the Sanibel Plan. It will be putting more vehicles on our roads, contrary to the Plan.
Schopp added there seemed to be a recent divergence by city staff and the commission of its analysis of vehicle rental applications. He felt the transportation element of the Plan should be considered more, such as in the case with the low-speed vehicle rental application in May 2018.
Sanibel Vacations Owners Rob Pailes and Charlie Hartley said they understood the issue was not parking space, but a square footage calculation put in place after the plaza was built. And felt that put them at a “slight disadvantage.”
Hartley said the plaza is underutilized, has little retail and there are often no fewer than 55 parking spaces available. Pailes added he didn’t understand why parking spaces counted as floor area in the LDC and was willing to bring the number of RVs down to one or two.
A compromise seemed to be reached towards the end – administrative operations, such as sales, bookings and associated tasks, could be performed in Sanibel Vacations’ office, but at no time could the vehicles be stored, picked up or dropped off on site.
City Planner Craig Chandler drafted language to that effect in the meeting, but Agnew recommended commissioners not vote on a “concept,” but the “better course would be to bring back a revised draft resolution before the body.”
In addition to the RV rental service, the conditional use permit application included moving the storage of 100 bicycles, a dozen paddle boards and three kayaks – all rentals – into two recently rented units in the plaza by Sanibel Vacations.
While city staff recommended approval of the rental equipment relocation, the entire application will be back before the commission on Jan. 11, when the hearing was continued.
Commissioners Eric Pfiefer and Laura DeBruce were absent from the meeting.