Peril of Flood, Property Rights EARs Move To First Reading

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Sanibel City Council unanimously moved two Evaluation and Appraisal Reports to first readings in May. The Peril of Flood and Property Rights EARs make required amendments to the Sanibel Plan to comply with state statutes and have a deadline of July.

The six mandated provisions of the Peril of Flood statute focused on structures. Planner Kim Ruiz said the best way to directly address those provisions was under the Safety chapter of the Sanibel Plan.

Ruiz told council the city was already meeting many of the requirements. “We are meeting them inadvertently because when we were protecting the natural resources, it ends up protecting structures,” she said.

“Structures are not being placed in the most vulnerable areas or there are limitations on the size of structures that can go there,” explained Ruiz.

Councilman Mike Miller suggested an additional objective with five subsidiary policies to the Peril of Flood EAR, which also had the support of Committee of the Islands. He had encouraged planning staff in January to include language that would address reducing the delay in citizens returning home following a storm event. But due to the tight timeline, staff focused on fulfilling the six mandated provisions.

“These are aspirational goals with respect to taking preventive measures for residents to access and occupy their homes following a storm event,” said Miller. “These are mostly influenced by comments from citizens over the past couple of years.”

Miller’s proposed objective was to adopt, and work with responsible non-city entities to also adopt, practical preventative measures that would ensure residents are able to return to their homes in a reasonable amount of time after a flood event.

The subsidiary policies included greater resiliency for the Sanibel Causeway and other connected roadways, coordination with LCEC, Island Water and cellular providers, as well as sewer system operations to ensure resilience and redundancy in services after a flood event.

“COTI members have expressed concerns about the ability of existing infrastructure to withstand major floods…,” said COTI President Larry Schopp. “To address those understandable concerns, we believe it would be prudent to adopt specific action-oriented policies that would, if implemented, facilitate island residents’ expedited return to their homes and to normalcy following disruptive storm events.

“We hope (council) will agree the five proposed preventative measures would do that, consistent with the existing goal statement, and should be adopted,” said Schopp.

Mayor Holly Smith said the proposed objective was very good, but she was hesitant to include something which has not made its way through the review process. She appreciates the process and wants to bring those stakeholders, including the public, into the conversation.

“Some (of the stakeholders) are not aware of the changes proposed and citizens should be involved,” Smith said.

While the Peril of Flood EAR moved forward without the proposed addition due to the time constraint, Planning Supervisor Craig Chandler explained there is an “expedited state review process” for discretionary changes to be made at any time within the mandated seven-year EAR cycle.

The Property Rights EAR does not create any new property rights and does not take away the city’s homerule to regulate land use. It only enumerates how rights are already defined by the U.S. Constitution, Florida Constitution and judiciary.

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