‘We need more time,’ BGHPB says to state in regards to National Register nomination

December 11, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY MARCY SHORTUSE- A letter sent from Lee County Commissioner Kevin Ruane to Survey and Registration Supervisor for the state’s Bureau of Historic Preservation, Ruben A. Acosta, was read and discussed at the monthly meeting of the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board, held on Wednesday, Dec. 9. The message of the letter was clear and concise: More time to make a decision is needed as to whether or not a portion of the Boca Grande residential historic district should be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
The letter to Acosta, dated December 10, delineated the details of the request. It stated that Lee County has considered the proposed nomination of the Boca Grande Residential Historic District and is unable to support the application as presented. The county’s primary concern is the inclusion of Gilchrist Avenue, a county-owned public right-of-way, as a contributing resource in the proposed district. 
The letter goes on to state that the nomination was reviewed by the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board at a public hearing on November 10, after which the historic board voted to oppose the nomination. 
“At this meeting, information was presented to dispute the factual accuracy of the nomination, creating doubt as to whether Gilchrist Avenue meets the nomination criteria,” the letter read. “Additionally, county staff has found no record that the median landscaping on Gilchrist Avenue, which has been improved and replaced over time, has followed any kind of historic landscape plan, which further calls into question its inclusion as a contributing resource. County staff has also raised potential issues with the effect this nomination would have on the County’s ability to fully regulate this important public right-of-way.”  
The letter also outlined the fact that if the nomination’s sponsor, Mikki Hartig of Sarasota, would amend the application to exclude Gilchrist Avenue the county would reconsider the nomination, and they would send it back to the island’s historic preservation board for review and public comment. The only problem with that is the fact that the Florida National Register Review Board has the matter on their agenda for February 4, 2021, and that wouldn’t allot enough time for the matter to be revisited on a local and county level. The county asked for an additional 60 days to complete all necessary review, public notification and public hearings.
Ruane’s letter stated that if, upon receipt, the State Historic Preservation Officer declined to postpone the hearing, or if Hartig failed to revise the application to exclude Gilchrist Avenue, the state could consider the letter as Lee County’s formal opposition to the nomination as presented.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 at 10 a.m. in the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium.