Lee County commissioners approve new building heights on Captiva

Reporter: Annette Montgomery
Published: Updated:

Sanibel and Captiva are planning to extend the height limit for buildings.

On Tuesday, Lee County commissioners heard from all sides, including the South Seas Resort, which wants to extend the building height limit.

Commissioners voted in favor of the code changes, but not everyone was happy.

“They have effectively now raised the heights that you could have up to 35 feet of building above the base flood elevation,” said Lisa Riordan with the Captiva Civic Association. “Not one person on Captiva has asked for that.”

That’s why more than 13,000 people signed a petition saying they don’t want to see buildings as high as 75 feet on Captiva.

The mayor of Sanibel fears what the change will mean for his island.

“We see this as a terrible, terrible lack of consideration for the Island of Sanibel,” said Mayor Richard Johnson.

Despite the opposition, including from former Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, who is now a Lee County commissioner, the motion passed.

“I think this is a mistake. I certainly am not in favor of this by any means,” Ruane said.

For Greg Spencer, the CEO of Timbers Group, which owns South Seas, it’s a win. He now has the clarity he needs to rebuild his resort because he can submit a zoning request.

“People continue to get up and say this is allowing unlimited height and unlimited density, and it’s not true,” Spencer said.

But the fear is what will happen if it does.

“You won’t see, you know, 75 feet over FEMA and six stories and all the conjecture that you’ve heard,” Spencer said.

But, Riordan said, “watch and see” what South Seas actually asks for.

“The conversation was we’re not increasing density. We’re not including increasing height. But, yes, they can go up to 75 feet,” Riordan said.

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