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Council denies appeal for low speed vehicle business on island

February 15, 2017
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

An appeal hearing for a conditional use permit application for low-speed vehicles at 2427 Periwinkle Way went before the City Council last week, which resulted in a unanimous vote to deny the appeal and uphold the planning commissions decision.

The original hearing for low speed vehicles was held Nov. 22, 2016 with the City of Sanibel Planning Commission. The applicant, Jay Stewart, was looking to turn the former Ickle Pickle store, at 2427 Periwinkle Way, into a rental business for low-speed vehicles. The proposal was to have four, four passenger vehicles and three six passenger vehicles located at the premise.

Stewart has been renting the low-speed vehicles on Sanibel from his off-island location for a year and a half. There are 25 vehicles in his fleet that service customers from Sanibel to Marco Island.

City Attorney Ken Cuyler said the Planning Commission found that the applicant did not meet the requirement for the land development code item dealing with minimal parking. He said the finding was based on seven onsite vehicles and not of more vehicles that were not reviewed, or incorporated into the study.

Planning Director Jim Jordan said the issues from the hearings were with the number of vehicles that would be on the site at any given time, what happens if someone drives a car to pick up one of the vehicles and how does that effect the demand of parking on site. He said the number of vehicles coming onto the island from offsite to rent was not factored into the application.

"I think the planning commission felt there was enough evidence based on that factor alone that they would certainly not support the application," Jordan said, adding that the number of vehicles on the road at any given time impacting the traffic flow was not taken into account. "I think with all of those items taken into consideration, I think the planning commission felt they could not in the city's best interest to approve this as a use conditionally."

He said one of the criterias for conditional use permits is the use itself could not have a greater impact on the site than the use that is permitted on the site.

Attorney Noel Davies, who represented the applicant, said not all evidence is treated equally. He said the substantial competent evidence that was presented to the Planning Commission was that the applicant had met the general and specific requirements for the application, as well as the traffic study and report.

"The Planning Commission did not have a proper legal basis to deny the application," Davies said. "We are requesting today that you reverse the decision of the Planning Commission."

The applicant anticipated that more than 95 percent of their customers will continue to have the low speed vehicle delivered, Davies said, which is another example of substantial competent evidence.

"If 95 percent are delivered, then certainly having four traditional automobiles parked for the duration of the rental of seven does not add up," Davies said.

Jim Strothers, project engineer, said they used car rental as a comparable conditional use because the low speed vehicles are similar cars. He said in regards to traffic, most traffic studies deal with volume, which is where the impact lays.

"It's not the speed of the vehicles, its the volume of the vehicles that are entering the roads that are causing the problems," Strothers said. "You are trying to determine how many vehicles need to flow through there. The majority of the car rentals, you go to the site and pick up your car. You don't typically drive your own personal vehicle to go rent a car and leave it there. That's how we determined we had significant parking there."

Vice Mayor Mick Denham said it's important for the application to be evaluated and compared to the requirements of the Sanibel Plan.

"It's very difficult for people to accept that don't live and breath Sanibel. The planning department found very clearly that it did not meet a number of requirements in the Sanibel Plan," he said. "We have to be continually reminded that the Sanibel Plan is an important part of the way we live. It's one of the reasons we sit up here because we are here to protect the Sanibel Plan."

Mayor Kevin Ruane said the issue that makes the application complex is not having a fixed onsite rental inventory. He said they would never limit it to seven if they had a good day.

"At the end of the day, if you had a great day, it could be 10, 12, or 14 vehicles," Ruane said. "It would be one thing if you would only do seven no matter what. If you had a good day, certainly based on the testimony here, you were going to bring more over in the middle of the day if you needed to."

Council member Marty Harrity said the biggest issue was parking. He said the initial application included 15 vehicles, which was reduced to seven. He said overtime in the course of a month the island could conceivably have more than 100 of the low-speed vehicles.



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