Our town is unique in many ways, from its location amidst a sub-tropical paradise to its welcoming atmosphere that seemingly offers a second, third or fourth chance to begin again to all who come to our shores.
One way it is not unique though is our pattern of local government. We elect steady, responsible council members and they do their work making hard decisions in the best interest of the whole community. Then along comes a hot button topic that riles up a vocal minority of residents who translate their dissatisfaction into an election issue.
Regardless of how many of the disaffected voters’ candidates make it onto the dais in Town Hall, the community conversation is diverted for a while and important topics go unaddressed.
Case in point – our town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. They date from 1999. The Town began on December 31, 1995. They were based in large part on Lee County documents. Over the past 20+ years of their existence, the Comp Plan and LDC have been amended, added to and portions altered. But what has never happened until now is a wholesale review and updating of both documents. Town Council recently selected a firm to do that review and updating, and not a moment too soon.
To that we can only say, Hallelujah!
We have been calling for this update for ten years. We’ve listened to virtually everyone complain about the big houses that are replacing beach cottages on our Island, as if the builders were doing something illegal. They weren’t. They were following our Comp Plan and LDC which allows building exactly what was being built. Those documents and those who wrote and approved them, never envisioned elevated pools or the FEMA building codes or the size of new homes in 2020. Town planners and members of the Local Planning Agency and Town Council have tried mightily to fit the round pegs of modern construction into the square holes of our Comp Plan and LDC. They shouldn’t have to.
Any effort to revise the town’s original documents have been met with claims of Comp Plan and LDC perfection. You can’t have it both ways. They aren’t perfect if they allow the kind of buildings that so many object to, are they? Ten years have gone by while this back-and-forth has gone on, and dozens of the big houses were built.
What document changes are possible remains to be seen, but the wholesale review is an excellent start that has been put off for far too many years. Now is the time.
We are in a stable period right now on Town Council. We don’t see any personal agendas taking precedence over what’s best for the community, at least on Council. And Council is in charge. We hope they remember that and speak up when they don’t like the way the Town is being run or aren’t seeing agenda topics that they want to see and discuss in Council meetings.
Let’s keep our current string of steady and responsible councils going.