LEGAL UPDATE from the Land Use Committee of the Captiva Civic Association in Advance of Dec. 6 Public Hearing

State Calls Amendments “False Flag”

After Florida’s Bureau of Community Planning and Growth called the County’s efforts to increase hotel room density on South Seas under the guise of resiliency a “false flag” operation, the County Attorney’s office has become increasingly defensive – sending a discourteous eight-page letter to the State that misses the point, and a cursory email to our “Protect Captiva” Attorney that is hard to explain. Our Attorney has responded – continuing to share the facts and our concerns with the State and the Board of County Commissioners.

County Says State Exceeded Authority

Responding to the State’s “false flag” comments issued on Oct. 6, the County Attorney’s office wrote on Oct. 20 that the State exceeded its legislative authority, should not have considered citizen input, should have consulted the County before issuing any negative comments, and had no business reviewing the issue of density. However, at no point in the County’s elongated response, does it dispute the State’s primary concern – that under the “false flag” of resiliency, the Plan Amendment is clearly for the purpose of increasing hotel room density. The County’s silence on that most important point of contention was deafening.

Commissioner Found Amendments ‘Offensive’

In response to the County on Oct. 27, our Attorney again explained why the Plan Amendment permits greater heights and hotel density for Timbers Resorts on South Seas. He also reminded the County that Commissioner Ruane stated at the Sept. 5 and Sept. 6 public hearings that County staff was asked for resiliency options, and instead provided amendments that increased building heights, increased density, and increased intensity – amendments that Commissioner Ruane found “offensive.”

No Community Input in Transmittal to State

Our Attorney also noted that the County failed to include any citizen input in its transmittal package to the State, including resolutions opposing increases in height and density from the Sanibel City Council. And notwithstanding the County’s view, the State has an important interest in emergency management issues raised by increased densities in Coastal High Hazard Areas such as Captiva. After receiving our Attorney’s Oct. 27 letter, the County Attorney’s office sent a five-sentence email claiming the Plan and Code amendments did not change Captiva’s hotel and residential regulations – seeming to ignore the plain language of the amendments.

Exempt from 3 Units per Acre Density Limitation

Once again, on Oct., 31, our Attorney detailed how the new Code amendments now exempt South Seas from the rules that limit the rest of Captiva to 3 hotel units per acre. And, the new Plan Amendment, which removes all Captiva building height limitations from the Plan, facilitates the increase in heights and densities for the South Seas hotels. It was also noted that Timbers Resorts has already stated it will soon apply for a new development that will include both higher buildings and more hotel units than previously permitted. The County was also reminded that its own attorney advised County Commissioners on June 6 that “South Seas would like to be excepted from the density limitation and go through the public hearing process to request density in accordance with their future land use category.” The new Code amendments exempt South Seas from the Captiva density limitation of 3 hotel units per acre and the future land use category does not have any such limit. The County’s claim that hotel density regulations are not being changed on Captiva is just not credible.

Public Records Request

Finally, our Attorney made a public records request on Oct. 26 for all communications between the County and agents of South Seas Resort Ownership, Timbers Company or Timbers Resorts, Wheelock Street Capital, and the Ronto Group regarding any development or building regulations on South Seas. For future litigation, it is important to better understand how these Plan and Code amendments that increase building heights, density, and intensity of use on Captiva were developed without the knowledge of any community organizations or property owners on Captiva – including the Captiva Community Panel.


Oct. 26 Public Records Request

Oct. 27 Letter

Oct. 31 Letter

Public Hearing

When: Wednesday, Dec. 6, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Where: County Commission Chambers, Lee County Courthouse, 2120 Main Street, Fort Myers