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Concerns arise over potential increase in density in Southwest Florida following Ian

Hurricane Ian has had a major impact on the landscape of Southwest Florida, particularly on barrier islands like Captiva and Fort Myers Beach. Within the aftermath of the storm, landowners and developers are searching for zoning changes to accommodate newly designed and expanded developments on these affected sites. Some changes involve height increases to satisfy federal requirements, while others entail adding more residential or hotel units in coastal high hazard zones.

Critics argue that placing more people in coastal hazard zones is dangerous and disregards the concerns of planners and residents who already inhabit these storm-prone areas. The pressure to maximise the variety of units on their properties is mounting for landowners and developers in storm-damaged regions.

One example is the $1 billion rebuild of the South Seas Resort on Captiva Island. The owner, Timbers Resorts, is searching for higher buildings and increased density within the variety of units that could be constructed. The approval of such changes may establish a precedent for the county, which already faces challenges with hurricane evacuation times.

Sanibel city council members are concerned concerning the plans for South Seas Resort and the potential increase within the variety of hotel units. They fear that approving more units will only place more people in harm’s way, as Captiva residents must go through Sanibel to achieve evacuation routes. Sanibel Island was incorporated primarily to regulate growth on barrier islands and acquire zoning authority.

Real estate analyst Matt Simmons from Maxwell, Hendry and Simmons in Fort Myers has observed the mounting pressures to redevelop Fort Myers Beach. He’s involved in the event that can replace the Red Coconut RV Resort and asserts that any conversation about density changes at South Seas Resort is premature until developers file a rezoning plan reflecting these potential changes.

Based on Fort Myers Beach Town Councilman Bill Veach, several redevelopment plans are expected to be submitted on the island, with some property owners requesting the addition of residential units. The priority is that increasing density will further congest traffic on the island, especially during major storms.

The town has thus far resisted increasing residential space during rebuilds, heightening the apprehension amongst developers. The potential of adding more people in vulnerable areas has raised concerns concerning the community’s safety.

The South Seas Resort ownership group has not submitted the rezoning plans to the county, making it unclear what type of density increase they seek. Although the owners have committed to sharing their plans before presenting them to Lee County for zoning consideration, critics argue that granting increased density to 1 property owner may lead others to expect the identical treatment.

Retired climate planner Jim Beever from the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council believes increasing density is unwise. He highlights the necessity for a comprehensive plan change to permit South Seas Resort to proceed and questions whether there might be a cap on density. Beever also raises concerns concerning the implications if other landowners expect similar treatment.

Experts like Wayne Daltry, retired Lee County Smart Growth director, and Beever have long advocated for stricter development criteria in vulnerable areas. They consider that quite than rebuilding in areas susceptible to hurricanes, it will be more practical to retreat and consider options comparable to relocating key structures and houses away from the coast.

In conclusion, the prospect of accelerating density in storm-prone areas has garnered criticism and raised concerns concerning the safety of residents and visitors in Southwest Florida. The potential long-term consequences and precedent set by such zoning changes have grow to be topics of debate amongst landowners, developers, politicians, and experts within the region.

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