New Ordinance Eases Restrictions On Generators For Some Homeowners

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Sanibel City Council unanimously approved an ordinance last week that makes it easier for some homeowners to install emergency electrical power generators or outdoor HVAC equipment on their property. It’s aimed at encouraging homeowners to install generators as a health and safety measure.

Under Ordinance 22-004, homeowners with developed property restricted by impermeable coverage, vegetation removal or developed area requirements can apply for an administrative waiver to install a generator. Homes constructed after June 7, 2022 will require a variance, as is the process now, unless space is allocated in the planning stage.

The adopted ordinance was a collaborative effort between the city and Committee of the Islands, an organization known for its many contributions to the Sanibel Plan and Land Development Code throughout the decades.

When the ordinance was drafted, it would have allowed properties proposed for future development to qualify for a post-construction waiver for installation of a generator. That would, in effect, make it an ordinance to increase clearance and coverage, which would require prior voter approval according to Section 3.10.5 of the Sanibel City Charter.

“The reason is that a property owner could simply build to the maximum permitted clearance and coverage and thereafter apply for and be granted a waiver to add coverage for a generator,” COTI President Larry Schopp wrote to council members in May.

Section 3.10.5 of the Sanibel City Charter provides that ordinances to increase permitted land area covered by impermeable surfaces, cleared of vegetation or used as a developed area require prior voter approval.

To avoid a conflict between the proposed ordinance and the charter, COTI suggested alternative solutions. One of those solutions was to clarify that properties developed after the effective date of June 7, 2022 would be ineligible for a post-construction waiver, but instead require a variance application, a process which is not in conflict with the city charter. The language was adopted in the ordinance.

“COTI monitors the activities of city government at all levels,” said Schopp. “That’s part of our mission. When we see problems, we identify them and offer solutions. And that’s what happened with Ordinance 22-004. We saw a conflict between the city charter and the ordinance as drafted and offered a simple solution – one that city council adopted. We view that as mission accomplished.”

The ordinance was unanimously approved by Council in the June 7 meeting. The generator and outdoor HVAC permitting process is one of four LDC items under review by city staff and the Sanibel Planning Commission. In April, City Manager Dana Souza presented a specific list of items in need of attention:

1.Definitions for developed area, open body of water and fill in conjunction with Section 86-35
2. Developing a definition for mean high water line (ref. Section 82-382) and wetlands
3. Environment performance standards (Article XIII, Ch. 126) review to be in line with Hazard Mitigation Standards
4. Permitting requirements for outdoor HVAC equipment and generators to consider code limitations for developed area and impervious area

“This (discussion) is intended to be broad,” Souza said in the April council meeting. “There are some definitions that have come up repeatedly in questions from builders and staff in terms of interpretation around these particular definitions.” He said it can be, at times, difficult to interpret the code, which leads to longer wait time by residents and more time spent by staff.

Planning Commission undertook a review of generators and outdoor HVAC standards in April. Planning Supervisor Craig Chandler explained the staff’s recommended amendments overall were to:

• Give ease of use of the code and intended to expand its applicability to HVAC improvements
• Streamline application requirements that are obsolete or cumbersome relative to the scope of work
• Provide an administrative deviation standard or waiver to applicable limitations on coverage, developed area and vegetation removal
• Improve organization and clarity to these regulations generally

Commission passed a motion 6-1, which removed the reference to new construction HVAC for a waiver.

Commissioners began discussion on open body of water and mean high water line definitions at the Tuesday, June 14 meeting. Commission Chair Roger Grogman said it was a time for conversation to reach “actionable definitions for a better understanding (by everyone)…”

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