Legal Challenges are Moving Along

With incredible support from the Captiva and Sanibel communities, our legal challenges (on at least three separate fronts) to increased density and building heights on Captiva and South Seas are moving steadily along. Here is an update.

City of Sanibel Votes to Intervene

Captiva Civic Association’s (“CCA”) challenge filed with the Division of Administrative Hearings to the Land Development Code amendments that increase building heights, density, and intensity on Captiva and South Seas has been assigned to a well-respected Administrative Law Judge who has requested available hearing dates from CCA and the County. The Judge is seeking to hold a hearing sometime in July or the beginning of August. CCA has proposed dates in July; the County has proposed dates in late August. CCA’s attorneys have already served interrogatories and document requests on the County, and the new owners of South Seas have made a motion to intervene on the County’s and its own behalf. In continuing its great support and solidarity, the Sanibel City Council voted unanimously to intervene on behalf of CCA and Captiva, and to protect the interests of the residents of Sanibel in preventing increased development, traffic, and evacuation times that the amendments under challenge could permit. The City of Sanibel will be represented by its City Attorney and his firm who will work closely with the attorney for CCA and “Protect Captiva.” We believe the amendments to the Land Development Code that would permit overdevelopment violate the Lee Plan which requires the County to maintain and enforce the “historic development pattern” on Captiva.

Settlement Agreement Hearing on July 9

CCA’s legal action to enforce the court-approved 2003 Settlement Agreement between CCA and the County is now scheduled for hearing on July 9. The Settlement Agreement provides that “the total number of dwelling units on South Seas Resort is limited to 912. No building permits may be issued by the County for dwelling units within South Seas Resort that will cause that number to be exceeded at any time.” The County filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming in various ways that the County exceeded its authority when it entered into that agreement back in 2003. CCA disagrees since the Settlement Agreement simply enforced the legitimate 1973 Zoning Approval and the subsequent 2002 Administrative Interpretation that guided development on South Seas for decades. CCA believes the Motion to Dismiss will be denied on July 9 and the Court will schedule the matter for resolution on the merits.

Response to Third Revised Plan Application

South Seas has now submitted a third revised Plan Application dated May 28, 2024, after the County rejected its second application as insufficient on April 25, 2024. South Seas is still seeking to build two hotels on the property with a total of 435 rooms, but has reduced the number of condominiums it is requesting from 272 to 196. The new application now seeks to increase density on South Seas to 1271 units in violation of the 912-unit cap of the 1973 Zoning Approval, the 2002 Administrative Interpretation and the 2002 Settlement Agreement, as well as the Lee Plan which requires that the historic development pattern on Captiva, including South Seas, be maintained and enforced. The revised application also requests building heights that are incompatible with Captiva’s existing structures; and it fails to address the availability of potable water for its increased development and waterpark, the increase in traffic and evacuation times resulting from overdevelopment, and the inability of the Captiva Fire District to provide rescue and fire protection to the additional and taller structures. CCA’s observations and comments submitted in response to the revised application are attached here.

Public Records Review Update

CCA’s Public Records review continues to reveal the extent that the County and agents of South Seas were working together to amend Captiva’s Land Development Code to exempt South Seas from the density and height limitations that applied to all other properties and resorts on Captiva – before any of these changes became public. The documents produced by the County make it apparent that the Code changes were not “County-initiated” and that they were initiated at the request of South Seas. The incorrect characterization of the amendments as “County-initiated” distorted the legal process and permitted the County to finalize the amendments for a vote before the County Commissioners before there was a public information meeting on Captiva about the amendments. CCA’s attorneys are determining whether mislabeling of the amendments invalidates the process or the amendments themselves, and whether there are sufficient grounds for additional legal action.

More than 900 Contributions to Legal Fund

The “Protect Captiva” legal fund which supports all of our legal work (and only our legal work) is approaching the $600,000 mark with more than 900 separate financial contributions. If you are able, please continue to contribute to the legal fund since the legal work already taking place has been substantial and a lot more work is planned and will need to be done. All contributions to the legal fund are tax deductible and can be made here.