Could the traditional gravel and shell driveways of Sanibel become a thing of the past?
That's what was considered after the Planning Commission voted unanimously to allow the shell and gravel driveways at Moonshadows Condominiums to be replaced with previous brick pavers, with conditions.
In fact, the commission was so swayed that it may look into allowing such pavers, which allow water to run through and reduce the risk of water runoff, in residential areas, as it has allowed in commercial zones.
For years, the shell and gravel has been the accepted form of driveways, but over time, even with the best of maintenance, they become so compacted they become like muddy concrete, making waterflow an issue in the summer, and dust problematic during dry season.
Brick pavers have become more popular for their aesthetics, not to mention a better water absorption rate than compacted shell.
GiGi Design Group, the contractor tasked with installing the pavers, went to the commission to ask for a variance to install the pavers in excess of the maximum land area permitted.
However, the commission had some problems with the application. Tom Krekel was dismayed over the lack of explanation over the city's seven standards when considering variances.
"We use seven standards and you put 'not applicable' on four of them. That is not an answer," Commissioner Tom Krekel told GiGi Matic of GiGi Design Group.
Commissioner Phillip Marks added the problem was self-imposed, saying the condo owners didn't rake or replenish the driveways until it became a problem.
"Fresh shell can make it more permeable," Marks said. "You took no reasonable steps to mitigate it."
But good grooming may not have made a difference, especially with the Chamber of Commerce parking lot, which has been a disaster for years.
"That driveway is like asphalt. If we turn this down, how does that help the environment?" Commissioner Chuck Ketteman said. "The pavers would allow water to be handled more properly."
As time went on, Marks softened his stance, saying he favored the pavers, but couldn't vote for it because it didn't meet the seven criteria and because the fire marshal rejected it because it didn't have a 20-foot turn radius for trucks to do a 180.
That stance softened more when Matic agreed to include that in his new proposal.
After a nearly hour-long discussion, the commission was swayed enough to approve the request, with conditions.
"It's been proven to us now that the pervious pavers, which allows water to pass through it, is better than a clay-based gravel driveway," said commission chairman Michael Valiquette. "We've done that in the commercial zone, we just haven't changed it in the residential zone and I'll ask council to allow us to look at that."