Planning Commission Approves Flat Roof Design For Shalimar

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Shalimar Beach Resort is rebuilding from Hurricane Ian and was given approval for its motel building to have flat roof design with a recreational space. SC photo by Shannen Hayes

Shalimar, a family-owned beach resort on West Gulf Drive, was given approval Tuesday, Oct. 24, in a 5-2 vote by the Sanibel Planning Commission to build its motel with a fully flat roof. The 21-unit building will sit closest to the road and a recreation area has been designed on top of it.

Planner Kim Ruiz told commissioners city staff needed guidance on interpreting two codes. Under the architectural design standards of the Land Development Code, there is a recent amendment which allows for a flat roof when incorporated as a resort recreational open space, but a sloped roof is required under another section.

When the resort housing district redevelopment plan was rewritten, the intent of allowing a flat roof was to provide additional recreational space off the beach and allow for sunset vistas.

“The question at hand is: If any portion of a roof is used for recreational open space, can the entire roof be flat or do they need to incorporate some sloped roof in the design,” Ruiz said.

The rooftop recreation area, as well as the required ingress and egress, on the motel building is highlighted in yellow.

Before commissioners debated how to interpret the two codes, Ruiz said the redevelopment plans for Shalimar meet current Sanibel codes, from impervious coverage to developed area, and setbacks. “They have done a really thoughtful design that showed they were concerned with coming forward with a project that improved the island,” she said.

“I can tell you this building meets all other architectural standards required to breakup the building so it’s not one flat, monolithic building,” Ruiz added.

The sloped roof requirement was enacted to avoid the development of buildings at maximum height with a flat roof, thus creating a monolithic structure. Architect Joyce Owens told the commissioners the motel building, as currently designed, is under the height limit and adding a sloped roof could increase its height by nearly 10 feet.

Renderings of Shalimar Beach Resort on West Gulf Drive. The recreation area will be on the rooftop of the motel building, shown in the top photo. 

“Our intention, always, was to keep the mass of this building down, not to increase it,” said Owens, who later explained the flat roof design was a result of city staff’s suggestion to create a recreation space there. “We tried really hard to make a building with a flat roof kind of appealing to everyone,” she said.

While all seven of the commissioners seemed pleased by the resort’s redevelopment plans, two of them – Commissioners Ty Symroski and Lyman Welch – voted ‘no’ due to their concerns over setting a precedent for other resorts to build monolithic structures by possibly using a small percentage of the roof for recreational space.

While Symroski was compelled by Shalimar’s decision to build below the maximum height, he was worried about future developments since this is the first one to come before them.

“I think we were achieving angle of light in the opposition to big, bulky buildings by requiring a sloped roof,” said Symroski. “I want to approve this project, but sometimes the worse precedents for future projects are set by good projects.”

“I consider this a good project,” he said. “I don’t want us to say the next time we get a building that has a third of the roof used for open space and now we are going to allow it to be built to the maximum height and have a whole flat roof because I think that would be contrary to the intent of the sloped roof.”

Chair Roger Grogman suggested the commission re-visit the issue to provide better clarification for future development, but to focus on the application before them and give Shalimar direction.

During public comment, a neighbor at Nutmeg raised concern over potential noise and lights at night from the rooftop terrace. And neighbors on the other side, John and Anne McGee, asked if the dumpster, designed to be next to their property, could be moved out of sight.

Sean Nielson, owner of Shalimar, said the rooftop would not have a bar or a “bunch of lights,” and it would closed at night. “We will have it locked,” he said. “People will not be able to go up there at 10, 11 or 12 and be partying or drinking. We want people to go up there for the view.”

Neilson also explained the dumpster would be behind a brick wall with “loads of vegetation,” but the location at the front of the resort is based on access for Waste Management. “But if they find another location that is feasible, I’m not opposed to it,” he said.

Commissioner Laura DeBruce first made a motion to approve the application with the additional condition of closing the rooftop at 9 p.m., which was seconded by Commissioner Ken Colter. But the inclusion of a closing time prompted a discussion about requiring a wall around the dumpster as condition.

“Rather than particular requests that may potentially deviate from code, I would suggest we stick to the screening requirement detailed in the code,” said City Attorney John Agnew.

DeBruce then offered to amend her motion to include the applicant be required to follow the code for dumpster screening. Planning Director Paula McMichael said staff heard their concerns over the rooftop closing time and dumpster location, and those are things staff can incorporate administratively,

“What we would like to get from you is the interpretation on whether we can approve, as staff, the flat roof that was presented,” said McMichael. “That it complies with our architectural standards because they have recreational facilities up there.”

DeBruce’s final motion was the planning commission determined as an interpretation of the Sanibel Code architectural standards that when a portion of a roof is incorporated as recreational open space, the entire building may be designed with a flat roof – for example, the motel building presented complies with resort housing architectural standards.

“I appreciate the revised motion,” said Commissioner Welch. “I have concerns that by putting that interpretation out there, we are creating a precedent for future development in the resort housing area that could give rise to building a resort up to the maximum height limit with a flat roof and whatever size recreational area. It could be smaller than this one, but allow a complete flat roof.”

He said other resorts will be looking at this one, since it’s the first, and consider using a flat roof. “I’m worried about the precedent we are setting,” said Welch.

Since there was consensus among the seven commissioners to avoid the building of monolithic structures, they will undertake a more in-dept review of the codes to provide better clarification for future projects.

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