Historic District zoning and a potential marine district Part IV: Items to be addressed by the Boca Grande Community Planning Association

May 15, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

STAFF REPORT – Two questions on the recently completed Boca Grande Community Planning Association survey touched on land, or water use regulation: Zoning in the historic district, and the creation of a new Marine District.
The clear message from all the answers and comments in the survey was that island residents want to preserve the quiet and charm of life in Boca Grande. Previous articles in the Boca Beacon have covered what the Gasparilla Island Conservation District Act protects and what it does not protect, and the ongoing work of the BGCPA to try to fill those gaps. 
Many communities in the United States facing similar issues have zoned areas needing protection to prevent alterations or new construction that would enable uses that the community does not want – such a industrial or large commercial uses. The Boca Grande survey responses to that question are shown in the graph shown on this page. 
A typical comment was, “Boca Grande is what it is because it has mainly stayed the same downtown for about 50 years. It’s quaint, and we have the GICIA Act [sic] to thank for that. Let’s keep it quaint for the next 50.” A few comments questioned whether there was a need for new regulation because of the jurisdiction of the existing Historic Board, and a few criticized the Board, but most were along the lines of, “Part of Boca Grande’s charm and attraction is that it holds onto the past and doesn’t try to replicate the modernization prevalent elsewhere in Florida.”   
One respondent wrote, “We cannot shoehorn the ‘downtown’ into the county regulations for density, setback and parking. We need our own overlay district and our own rules and regulations.”
In fact, the existing Boca Grande Community Plan calls for the county to respond to the community if it wishes its own Boca Grande-specific zoning overlay, which is what the BGCPA will work on.
Another zoning overlay feature that the existing Boca Grande Community Plan permits is a Marine District, which is a form of zoning overlay for the waterways. Boca Grande includes numerous inland waterways which are subject to a cascade of federal, state and county rules. Islanders who live on or use the waterways depend on dredging, navigational markers, environmental and wildlife protection, and other government services that may or may not be provided by government agencies with overlapping jurisdiction. 
In fact, several comments questioned whether there was any current enforcement of existing rules. 
The BGCPA is working on a form of zoning overlay that will clarify those activities and standards, while taking into account the many differences between island life and the circumstances on the mainland of Lee County. Several Marine District issues were presented in the survey question, and the responses are in the chart on this page.   
There were fewer comments in response to this question than to others, but as the chart shows, most were about wildlife and environmental protection. 
“Provide and enforce speed limits strictly in manatee protection zones,” was a typical response.