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Council considers two drafts
August 12, 2019

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The Sanibel City Council recently approved draft ordinances regarding motorized devices on the shared use path and the median salary for the Below Market Rate Housing, as well as agreed to move forward on putting together language related to gas-powered leaf blowers for future consideration.

At its Aug. 6 meeting, the council reviewed the language of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the use of motorized scooters, micromobility devices and e-bikes on the city's SUP. Brought forward by Vice Mayor Mick Denham, he explained that the point was to advise staff on any changes to the draft.

He cited the public's concern about existing user behavior on the path, as indicated by a recent study conducted, and concern about safety if the devices are allowed for what prompted the ordinance.

"I'm not against electric vehicles," Denham said. "I just feel we have a shared use path that is, unfortunately, narrower than we like and at times of the year it is very congested."

He noted that he did request staff to make one change to the draft language, the removal of "public street or road" in one section, which would have limited their use beyond the SUP to the whole island.

"I'm against them on the shared use path," Denham said, adding that he is not against their use elsewhere on-island, just the SUP. "I believe it is a hazard to our citizens and our visitors."

After some discussion among the council on the subject itself, and some public comments, Mayor Kevin Ruane reiterated that the intent was to direct staff on any changes to the draft language in order to finalize a document. At a future meeting, council could then consider and vote on the ordinance.

"We need to put together a document to move forward," he said.

Denham was asked about his thoughts on the draft, with his requested change.

"I believe this ordinance is as good as we can get it right now," he said.

With no other changes suggested for the language, the draft was approved unanimously 5-0.

The first reading of the proposed ordinance will take place next month.

Also at the meeting, the council considered a draft ordinance on the median salary for the Below Market Rate Housing. Brought forward by Councilmember Holly Smith, she explained that it proposes updating the area median income from "120 percent" to "up to 160 percent." Requested by Community Housing and Resources, the change has received support from the Sanibel Planning Commission.

The council voted 5-0 to finalize the draft and bring it forward next for a first reading.

Also during the meeting, the council members continued their discussion on gas-powered blowers.

The subject initially had been raised by Councilmember Jason Maughan, who noted that he does not think adequate equipment is available at this time to replace the blowers if a ban is approved. Maughan instead voiced a combination of immediate and long-term suggestions to address the issue over time.

"I want these things gone at some point down the road," he said, citing quality of life issues and environmental concerns as the reasons for his stance.

Maughan floated the idea of putting a weekend ban in place for commercial operators or landscapers but not residents, not permitting their use after 5 or 6 p.m. during the week, and putting together a five- or 10-year eradication plan in order to give the market time to create better electric-powered devices.

A representative from the Committee of the Islands, which has voiced opposition to gas blowers and has been pushing for the city to put a ban in place, was present and commented on the suggestions.

"I think that makes a lot of sense and would move the ball forward," President Mike Miller said.

After some discussion, the other council members voiced their support.

Maughan said he would work with staff to draft the language for consideration.

Also at the meeting, the council voted 4-1 to approve a special event permit request from the Sanibel Sea School to hold a free family-oriented, holiday beach walk on Nov. 29 at Gulfside City Park.

Denham cast the dissenting vote, voicing concern over potential future requests.

"I am fearful this is the beginning of a very slippery slope," he said.

Prior to the vote, the council questioned staff about the possible environmental impacts, as well as a representative from the Sanibel Sea School on how the event would work. She explained that attendees would be broken down into small groups and led around the beach, starting off in different directions.

She continued that the walk is an annual tradition for the organization, but the response to last year's event led it to change the location and seek a permit from the city. In 2018, about 120 people took part and walked down Buttonwood Lane to the ocean, which drew complaints from the nearby neighbors.

"I don't want to penalize somebody for coming in here and trying to work with us," Ruane said, noting that he felt the Sanibel Sea School was trying to be good stewards and neighbors of the community.

After more discussion, the permit was approved on the conditions that the event will be capped at 75 participants, Natural Resources Department staff will be involved to minimize impacts to the beach, the organization will cover costs to the city to have staff on-hand day of and it will encourage carpooling.

IN OTHER NEWS

- Lee County Supervisor of Election Tommy Doyle made a presentation before the council relative to its options for changing the city's election cycle.

- Council voted 5-0 to amend the labor agreement between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police representing police officer and dispatchers.

- Council voted 5-0 to amend the labor agreement between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police representing police sergeants.

- Council voted 5-0 to amend the labor agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

- Council voted 5-0 to approve and support the city clerk to run in the election of the office of vice president of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks Association.

- Council voted 5-0 to approve a mutual aid agreement between the Sanibel Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff's Office to utilize the Lee County Gun Range, allowing Sanibel to train at the site.

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