Ian Prompts More Scenic Sanibel Town Center

by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen

A sweeping proposal to change commercial property setbacks would make Sanibel a more walkable and bike-friendly environment and emphasize the scenic character of its stores and restaurants, Planning Director Craig Chandler told the Sanibel Planning Commission at its May 9 meeting.

Island-style architectural buildings buffered by predominantly native vegetation would be more visible and more bike and pedestrian friendly, Chandler said. Currently many stores and restaurants are set back off the road with parking lots in front, which, Chandler said creates an “auto-urban” look rather than a small town look.

He cited Tutti Pazzi (formerly Matzaluna’s), Trader’s, and Sanibel Promenade as examples of developments that are set back more than 200 feet with parking in front making them practically invisible from the road.

Others such as Mudbugs and Tipsy Turtle are located right on the road with little room for any real vegetation buffers.

A proposed change to provide consistency is to change the setbacks from the actual property line rather than the center of the road. This would help avoid discrepancies created because of varying road widths. Periwinkle Way and Tarpon Bay Road, he said, vary between 50’ and 80’ feet wide. Measuring from the front property line would provide more continuity with the with buildings equidistant from the road.

The proposed setback from the front property line would remain at 20 feet, but be reduced to 15’ from the side and rear property lines. Chandler emphasized this would in no way increase the amount of coverage or allow larger buildings. It would, however, improve the viability of redevelopment in the wake of Hurricane Ian and allow storefront and facade additions as well as porches and patios for outdoor dining.

These changes are also anticipated to reduce the number of waiver applications necessary to consider modifications, improvements, and additions on existing developments.

Amendments to the Land Development Code, which had not been substantially changed for more than 10 years, were being considered in early 2022, long before Hurricane Ian. It became urgent in November last year as planners considered changes that could streamline permit processes in anticipation of the higher volume of post hurricane permit activity.

The report was unanimously approved by the commission and will now be passed to city council for discussion

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