Sanibel-Captiva Chamber Hosts First Luncheon Since Ian

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

A panel of five local leaders spoke to members of the business community Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the first luncheon of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce since Hurricane Ian. The well-attended event signaled a sense of normalcy is returning in the community. But the topic was storm recovery.

Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza, who was among the five panel members, provided an update:
• Postal service is expected to return in January.
• The Sanibel School is projected to reopen in January.
• Checkpoints will remain in place until certain benchmarks are met.
• Lee County will begin raking the beaches next week (Dec. 5-9) in a first step to reopening them. Souza explained raking is not common practice on the island, but will be done given the scope of work.
• The planning permit portal is now open and the city has received 433 permit applications.

Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell spoke about the tax roll value letters available online and when to have a private appraiser or use the county’s property appraisal from January for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 50 percent build-back rule.

Caldwell advised property owners to communicate structural damage with his office via a reporting link to avoid an over assessment next year. He said only a small percentage of county property owners have reported damage sustained from the storm.

“At the least, that information will help our office make adjustments to the property record in advance of the January 1, 2023 tax year,” said Caldwell.

“Additionally, after previous historic hurricanes, the State of Florida has passed retroactive tax breaks of varying degrees. If that occurs again, this information will also be used in determining which properties qualify under the standards adopted by the legislature, if any,” he said.

Councilman Scott Crater, Sanibel Building Official Craig Mole and Director of the Lee County Economic Development Office John Talmage also spoke to the group of business leaders prior to a questions-and-answers session.

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