SC Staff Report
Sanibel may be reopened to the public three months after Hurricane Ian devastated the island and washed away sections of the Sanibel Causeway. Lee County is resuming toll fees Jan. 1, 2023 and the city anticipates lifting the hurricane reentry pass restriction the next day.
The island has only been accessible to those with a hurricane reentry pass since the storm, and disaster recovery is still underway. City Manager Dana Souza said in this month’s regular council meeting the decision to fully reopen will not be made lightly.
“This has not been a decision we have taken lightly,” Saouza said, noting he and Sanibel Police Chief Bill Dalton have had lengthy discussions about when to lift the pass restriction. “(And) Jan. 2 is the date we anticipate passes will no longer be needed.”
The date was chosen because it’s a Monday, the start of a week, and toll collection will be reinstated. CrowderGulf, the city’s disaster recovery company, expects to have 80 percent of the debris collected from the right-of-way by Dec. 23 – one of the city’s benchmarks for reopening.
“That gives them another week to collect debris and have the big trucks out of the way at the level they’ve been,” Souza said, adding LCEC will continue with its pole replacement work.
Souza recognized there are some people who want the island reopened to the general public, while others think it’s too soon.
“The message to the community is we know there are folks on both sides of this issue,” he said. “Please secure your homes and businesses as soon as you can to make sure you have comfort in your property being secured.”
He urged the public to contact the Sanibel Police Department (239-472-3111) for concerns and if they see suspicious activity. “They are happy to come out,” he said.
A curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. remains in place. Souza told council members it will continuously be evaluated and will be adjusted, if needed. “We’ll update you regularly, as we have been, if we need to make a change to the curfew,” he said.
Souza added the city beach parking will not reopen in January. He did not give a timeline.