The Land Development Code Review Subcommittee decided to take a closer look at the sizes of resort rooms on island, in order to offer more flexibility for property owners who may want to redevelop or rehabilitate.
Following the March 25 meeting of the Sanibel Planning Commission, the subcommittee discussed whether short-term rental properties within the Resort Housing District could be rebuilt larger, as long as they didn't exceed 600 square-feet. But, according to the proposal, even if the larger rooms were permitted, the coverage area of the entire property couldn't exceed what had already been allowed. And, furthermore, all of the city's other requirements need to be followed.
The subcommittee voted to forward the issue for discussion at the next Planning Commission meeting on April 8.
The 115-year-old Island Inn is an example of one island resort that recently finished a major renovation project in February to upgrade its interior and exterior. MCKENZIE CASSIDY.
Sanibel Planning Director Jim Jordan said the proposal's intent was to bring many island properties into conformity and provide owners with flexibility.
"You would still have to comply with all of the other requirements for redevelopment, but with a developer's ability to have more square footage and reach all of the requirements, this provision would provide some flexibility in the overall redesign of the facility," said Jordan.
City staff had consulted a study on room sizes from Arlington, Va., and found that the industry standard is between 600-700 square-feet. One concern among members of the subcommittee was whether rooms on the island are keeping up with competition from other destinations, which offer more square feet and extra amenities.
"The chamber doesn't get many complaints from visitors, but the complaints we do get are about the quality of accommodations," said Planning Commissioner Chris Heidrick. "It sounds like this would provide the encouragement to do what the community wants to do, which is to improve the quality of accommodations."
Many resorts on the island are individual cottages or units, and under the new proposal, owners may decide to bring the units closer together and decrease the overall footprint of the resort.
Another concern among the committee was whether projects would follow the city's architectural design standards. Jordan explained that they would have to follow standards, but the challenge was how to manage that issue "without putting them in a box."
Planning Commissioner Chuck Ketteman said that more developers and property owners were going to choose to build up to avoid increasing density. Buildings on the island can't be higher than four floors.
"The way they are going to accomplish this is by building up," said Ketteman. "That is fundamentally what we are going to see from this change."
Islander Larry Schopp said no one should think of Sanibel as having substandard hotel rooms, but many of the quaint island cottages will become obsolete in the near future, if they haven't already.
"If 600 square-feet is the industry norm for resorts in this area, I don't see why Sanibel should insist on 450 square-feet. As changing the law, we are probably going to be adding 30 percent more bulk to those resorts," said Schopp. "That is going to have a major visual impact."
Jeremy Kane, speaking on behalf of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal would eliminate a substantial amount of non-conformities and enhance the beauty of the local surroundings.