At their June meeting Tuesday morning, June 13, 2017, the members of the Local Planning Agency voted to approve revised wording on Floodplain Regulations that they had previously approved that would take the town’s 50% rule from a 5-year time period to a permit-by-permit basis. Community Development Director Kara Stewart told the LPA that she had shared the wording of the new regulations with the state and they suggested a few changes. According to Stewart, the state’s changes did nothing to the original intent of the revised regulations to go from 5-year to permit-by-permit and to add a 20% adjustment to the tax assessment value if an appraisal of less than one year is not available. Stewart explained that the state wished to have standard language used.
While concurring that the town is moving in the right direction, Dan Hendrickson expressed some regret at the lack of middle ground. “I think we are moving in the right direction by doing this. In retrospect, I wish we had decided to go to 1-year and then permit-by-permit, just to see what if any unintended consequences there were.”
Jane Plummer said they had approved this for residents in ground level homes. “We’re here to represent those people…we will have stronger, healthier houses. I don’t want to see us go backward.”
After passing Ordinance 17-09 unanimously, Plummer offered to assist in educating local realtors on the new rules and other members noted that public education was very important for residents once Council has passed the new ordinance. Town Council will discuss the ordinance at their June 19th council meeting.
Next on the agenda was Ordinance 17-11, related to neighborhood flooding. While new development for commercial or multi-family buildings requires stormwater management systems, code does not currently address single-family and duplex homes. Town Council has discussed the replacement of the Land Development Code Chapter 6, Section 1-14 that was removed from the code previously.
Stewart explained that Sections 1-13 are already covered under other parts of the code, but Section 14 was not. She said the challenge was coming up with some objective parameter regarding storm water flow on a residential lot.
She proposed that before any fill was added to a lot, a fill permit should be required. If a house were being built, storm water would need to be addressed in the building permit.
The ordinance would require that applicants show how a 1” rainfall for inland lots and 1.6” rainfall for waterfront lots, would infiltrate into the ground on that lot and not run off onto neighboring lots or the street.
A new restriction limiting the amount of impervious surfaces on new construction to 67% is part of the new regulations also. Previously the code only limited new home construction to 40% of the lot, which applied to just the main structure.
Tetra-Tech assisted Stewart in determining the appropriate levels for the code, using other coastal communities, including Marathon.
Hendrickson said he wasn’t sure this was right for our town and said he wanted more research done before passing this. Plummer asked for examples of how this would work.
Town Manager Roger Hernstadt spoke to the LPA urging them to adopt the ordinance. “The situation of not having a standard for people to design to is a serious issue. I urge you to try to address this as soon as you can. The problems are not unique to Fort Myers Beach. They are similar to any coastal town where land is constrained and you have older homes and new homes being built next to them. While it may not be perfect, it’s better than having none at all.
“A numerical standard is easy to work with. I think we should aspire to a code with specifics and that has a process through variances for people to obtain through a public process. Clarity helps staff do their jobs; helps homeowners do their job and offers firm hard protection for neighboring properties.”
Hendrickson suggested reinstating all of Section 1-14 back into the code, noting that any redundancy would result in the stricter code being enforced. Other members of the LPA commented that that would only lead to confusion.
After Stewart agreed to provide examples of the engineered drawing showing how a property would meet the restrictions to Town Council, the LPA passed the ordinance 6-1 with Plummer voting no.
Storm Water Update
Director of Public Works Scott Baker and Tyler Wainwright of Tetra-Tech provided the LPA with a Storm Water Update.
“The ‘Cadillac’ storm water plan was meant only to get funding,” explained Baker. “We can’t get funding for anything unless it is in the Master Plan. Right now Tetra-Tech is working on the 30% design plan, including 108 different basins.”
Baker urged residents to call his office if there is an area that regularly floods. “We keep a database. Please call Public Works. Trust me, when it rains, we all go out and look.”
Lorrie Wolf commented that the new section of Estero Blvd was dry after some heavy rains last week.
“What the county designed and built is working,” said Baker. “The outfalls are working. The system the Town put in is working tremendously even in a high tide situation. We built the system for 9.5” of rain in a high tide event.”
A brief discussion on the LPA’s enabling ordinance led to several suggestions to improve the functioning of the group. Suzanne Katt suggested that professionals with planning and building backgrounds be included, regardless of where they lived. Plummer agreed, but wished to limit it to Island residents.
During a discussion of the Historic Preservation Board, Katt asked for a budget of $500 for next year to allow for enough historic plaques. Letters will be sent soon to properties that may qualify for historic designation and Katt hopes to receive numerous applications.
During Member Items, Chair Hank Zuba pointed out that Lee County continues to use the Seafarers site in a manner inconsistent with the zoning of the property with no special use permit from the town.
The LPA will not meet in July. Their next meeting will be Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 9am in Town Hall.