Historic Preservation Board has further discussion on potential code enforcement exemptions for downtown area

September 13, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE – The Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board had a discussion regarding the code enforcement complaints that occurred in the last few months at their meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11. Board member Becky Paterson led the discussion, after it was mentioned at last month’s meeting that she draft a letter to possibly ask for extenuating circumstances under the premise the land is historic.

Paterson said since then she had spoken with people familiar with county policy, and she believes that the code enforcement department has never had so many complaints at one time.
“I don’t think they even knew what to do with them,” she said, referring to the complaints. “I need to talk to Paul (Smith) at code enforcement. But it’s all been resolved now, and I think we are moving forward. It doesn’t really require a letter to the commissioners. But we don’t want to forget about it.”
Paterson explained that one of the biggest problems is with the outdoor seating issue, and the fact the County told The Inn Bakery and the Pink Pony to remove their seating because the parking to patron numbers don’t match up.
“Many of these historic contributing businesses go from front lot line to back lot line, she said, ”There is never, ever any opportunity for parking to be designated for those buildings. The ones that require some seating can’t put it outside because they don’t have the parking for it. I think we need to look further into that and get an exemption of some sort.”
Paterson said she saw some “serious problems” with the county’s process of taking code enforcement complaints, which includes a computer-generated form on their website that does not ask for the complainant’s name.
“I think there are some serious problems with the county’s process,” she said. “I have a problem with my company being reported and listed on the website and I never knew about it. There are literally thousands of people who could read that and not know it was frivolous.”
Board Member Bill Caldwell said he thought something might be able to be done by working through the island’s parking panel, to approach the county regarding parking issues with the businesses. He agreed with Paterson and said, “Because it’s historic there should be some kind of exemption.”
Paterson said she would definitely pursue a conversation with someone from Lee County Code Enforcement, whether the complaints were done for the moment or not.
Our town is so precious,” she said, “we can’t allow the current codes to wipe everything off the sidewalks and turn us into a strip mall. Because that’s what it looked like when everyone was scrambling to comply.”
The Historic Preservation Board also discussed two certificates of appropriateness. The first was for an elevator to be installed in the Johann Fust Library, leading to the second floor. Currently the second floor is used for meetings, miscellaneous events and, occasionally, rented as an apartment. After a very minimal amount of discussion it was passed unanimously.
The board also looked into proposed renovations at 341 Gilchrist Ave., which included replacing some rear windows with doors, removing a freestanding trellis and altering the interior layout in minor ways. The board also passed that unanimously.
Lastly, Assistant Lee County Attorney Amanda Swindle gave a presentation regarding The Sunshine Law, as a brush-up measure for the board.
The next meeting is scheduled for October 9.