Planners Propose Limited Building Height Increases

by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen

There’ll be no high rises on Sanibel although there will be modest increases in height allowed for single family homes and duplexes if proposed amendments to the Sanibel Code are adopted by the Sanibel City Council in meetings later in the month.

The changes were deemed necessary in light of new FEMA maps requiring higher elevation of the first living floor in certain areas of the island. City Council was also concerned about the inconsistency of heights based on land use and the negative effects of building compression necessitating lower ceiling heights.

Currently, residential and institutional buildings on the island are limited to 35’ above predevelopment grade. Planners propose a maximum height of 45’ above NAVD. Since the difference between predevelopment grade and NAVD is a minimum of 3.3’ this will mean an increase in height for single family homes of around 7’.

Commercial districts already have the same accommodation with a height limit of 45’ above NAVD.

Resort housing, mostly condos on Sanibel, are allowed 33’ above required flood elevation up to a total of 49.8’ above NAVD. An addition 8.3’ feet is allowed for a sloped roof bringing a possible total up to 58.1’ above NAVD.

In all cases, the height of the building must not exceed three stories above the base elevation required by FEMA.

The bar graph above shows the variation in building height based on the predeveloped ground level, the elevation of the first living floor level to comply with the new FEMA flood maps and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Construction Control Line. The white shadows indicate the current limits. Under the proposed amendment, these limits would be removed and only the 45 ft NAVD standard would be retained for all commercial, institutional and residential uses. In the resort housing district, the maximum height is 33 feet above base flood elevation or 49.8 ft NAVD, whichever is less.

The height of buildings on Sanibel is regulated by three official documents, The Sanibel Charter, the Sanibel Plan and the Sanibel Code. The Sanibel Charter is the act that brought the City of Sanibel into existence, the Sanibel Plan lays out development for the island and The Sanibel Code determines the way in which that development is carried out.

The Sanibel Charter cannot be changed without a referendum of all registered voters on the island and the charter dictates that no building can have more than three stories.

In looking at adjustments, planning staff looked for a proposal that did not increase the number of stories or require a Sanibel Plan amendment or increase heights above 45’ for residential and institutional buildings.

Another limitation unique to the island is Sanibel’s angle of light provision. This is a measurement that limits the maximum height of a building at the setbacks, meaning the highest portion of a building will be in the center of a lot. The

maximum height at the setback is currently 20 feet above natural grade. In view of increased elevations, planners propose to raise this to 30’ NAVD.

City Council decided at a special meeting held November 1, to review the proposed amendments at their regular meeting on November 7 at 5:30 pm and a special meeting on November 20 at 8 am.

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