Three hours later, the Historic Preservation Board decided the house is just a bit … too … big …

March 13, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

The people who filled the audience seats at the Wednesday, March 11 Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board meeting didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into when they walked through the door, but more than three hours later they were well aware. 
It wasn’t the first three items on the agenda that were the sticking point, they went very smoothly in fact. It wasn’t Mary O’Bannon’s very brief presentation regarding code enforcement updates in the downtown area, either, though that may have been why a lot of the people were there. Instead, the topic of the discussion that never ended was one little house at 4th Street and Tarpon Avenue that wanted to become much bigger.
Betsy Joiner, a well-loved character in the community whose family has lived here for generations, owns the little house at 381 Tarpon Avenue. It was moved to its current location (two lots that Betsy already owned) in 1990 – 30 years ago – but was actually built in 1939. It used to sit where the Boca Grande Health Clinic is today, but Joiner saved the home and had it moved after having it transferred into her name.
Betsy is now trying to sell the home, and put in an application with the Historic Board to do some renovations. They include demolition of an existing shed and an existing six-foot-high fence along the south and west property lines, moving the house over 27 feet to the northwest so it sits on the northerly lot of the two adjoining lots, rehabilitating the existing interior, constructing a garage and a 2,900-square-foot wing on the existing home. The addition of a paver pool deck and patio in the rear, and a driveway, and elevating the house in its entirety by several feet were also included in the request.
While Lee County Attorney Anthony Rodriguez did say that the county approved of removing the wood shed and fences, the relocation of the home and elevation the home, the pool and paver deck and a new perimeter wall, they were not on board with the additions or the driveway.
Joiner’s consultant on the plan, Gloria Sajgo, explained to the board that Joiner cannot develop the lots individually because of density regulation provided in the Gasparilla Act. Joiner cannot keep the historic house on one lot, Sajgo said, and build another house on the second lot. Because the house is too small, Joiner requested the ability to add on to the current home.
“Betsy Joiner is probably the only person in Boca Grande to have saved an historic house from demolition not once, but twice,” Sajgo said. “First, she stepped up and saved the house from demolition when she moved it from Park Avenue to its current location. Second, after Hurricane Charley damaged it she saved it by rehabbing it so it could be preserved.”
Joiner’s architect, Tim Krebs, also gave a lengthy presentation explaining why the County’s rejection of part of the plan was not handled normally, and that they were “shocked and stunned” when they realized their request was, in part, rejected. He then explained at length why the Lee County Land Development Code allowed for everything they had asked for.
One island resident, Harrison Coerver, came forward and asked Historic Board Member Paul Eddy why he was not recusing himself from the discussion, as his house is right next door to Joiner’s home and he had been a rather verbal opponent of the project. Eddy said he had already spoken with counsel regarding that matter and was told he was free to not only join in the discussion and vote, it was his “duty.”
One historic consultant, Micky Hartig, spent well more than an hour addressing the board and asking Krebs questions about the proposal. Several others came to the podium to speak for and against the project, including neighbor Nancy Eddy (Paul Eddy’s wife) who was concerned about the pool equipment for Joiner’s home being right next to their home. 
After discussion by the board the motion for the certificate of appropriateness was denied as a whole, with the board encouraging Joiner to bring a revised plan before them again soon.
Parking Committee Chairman Mary O’Bannon also spoke to the Historic Preservation Board regarding some very positive news. She said that members of the parking panel met with Lee County officials to see what avenues could be pursued or considered regarding downtown seating and other code enforcement issues that came up last summer. O’Bannon said they are “working toward a solution to an amendment to the parking code downtown.” She advised the board there are still public hearings to go through, and final approval from the county attorney. She said they hope to have some even better news by next season, so start envisioning those donuts and coffee at your favorite sidewalk table for next year.
The board also unanimously approved agenda items:
• Approval of a generator platform and generator with a lattice enclosure and surrounding shrubbery at 745 7th St. E.
• A garage addition for a golf cart space at 371 Gilchrist Ave.
• A window and door replacement with modifications, an interior renovation and new canopies over entrances on the south and west elevations on the main house at 1241 12th St. W., and enclosure of an existing carport.