The Sanibel Planning Commission denied a request for a conditional use permit that would have allowed a rental business of street legal low-speed vehicles to have a storefront on Periwinkle Way last week.
The more than two hour discussion mainly focused on the speed limit - 25 mph - of the vehicles, as well as the traffic problems the vehicles could potentially produce and the number of rentals that would be located at the property.
Jason Maughan said the real gorilla in the room is that they are low-speed vehicles only allowed to go 25 mph.
"There are areas like San Cap Road where you have seven miles. For those that live at that end doing 20 miles in a 35 is grim enough. Twenty to 25 miles is a real concern," he said. "I think people are talking about the impact of being trapped behind one of these things going down San Cap Road. That is the Sanibel Plan part. It's a community issue. What we are really looking at here is the ghastly bloody traffic we are dealing with and how we are not getting to a solution fast to deal with that and whether this is going to add to this whole program. This is a conditional use application to bring these things to our home and give them out and add to the tourist cars on the road. My observation is that we look to the Sanibel Plan on this one."
The applicant, Jay Stewart, was looking to turn the former Ickle Pickle store, located at 2427 Periwinkle Way, into a rental business for low-speed vehicles. The proposal was to have four, four passenger vehicles and three six passenger vehicles located at the premise.
Planning Director Jimmy Jordan said Stewart, who was originally scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission earlier this month, reduced the number of his inventory from 15 to seven with all seven vehicles being stored inside the building.
Stewart has been renting the low-speed vehicles on Sanibel from his off-island location for a year and a half. There are 25 vehicles in his fleet that service customers from Sanibel to Marco Island.
"There are no restrictions with regards to city regulations, or ordinance, that restrict, or prohibit low-speed vehicles," Jordan said.
City Attorney Ken Cuyler said the low-speed vehicles are authorized on roadways.
"City Council has never been approached about low-speed vehicles per se," he said. "We don't have a specific inventory of private vehicles that are currently on the road and are classified as low-speed vehicles."
Cuyler said the speed of the vehicles is not a basis for denial in and of itself.
A few of the commissioners had questions regarding if seven was the total amount of low-speed vehicles that were allowed on the island at one time.
"Or is that the housing center and they will be allowed to have further vehicles from wherever they might drop them off, or pick them up," Holly Smith asked.
Maughan also asked about the inventory.
"It houses seven, but is that a one in, one out situation? So if they rent out all seven and bring seven more in and wait to see if they rent those," he asked. "Or, are they limited to renting seven from the location total?"
Jordan said they could have seven on site at any given time, which means that they could have more than seven vehicles on the island at one time. In other words, if one low-speed vehicle was rented out, another could be brought into the storefront.
Christopher Heidrick said if seven are allowed on site, and more are allowed to come in, how is the number of parking spaces determined.
Jordan said it is no different than a car rental. He said they cannot have more than seven on site at a time to meet parking requirements.
City Planner Josh Ooyman said the proposed use for parking spaces, since it fell into the car rental category, was 10 parking spaces. The existing office use for Cottages and Castles is five parking spaces.
"Five spaces for the first two vehicles and one parking space for each additional vehicle," Ooyman said, adding that the total required parking on site would have been 15 spaces. "The five existing spaces in the front of the building and the reconfiguration of the 10 parking spaces in the rear."
Stewart said he did not foresee having any issues with parking.
"My customers typically don't have an automobile. They rent these in place of an automobile. They would prefer driving this vehicle. I have GPS tracking devices and we track where they go, how many miles they put on, how many miles per gallon," he said. "A six passenger unit will get almost 70 miles per gallon. It is easier to park in a parking spot. There is so many advantages using this vehicle instead of an automobile."
The traffic impact was also touched on during the presentation. Ooyman said the applicant's study stated that the traffic would have a very little impact to the island.
"The proposed use would have a very insignificant traffic impact on Periwinkle Way compared to the previous retail use," Ooyman said.
Chuck Ketteman provided an example of how the low-speed vehicles would impact the traffic of the island.
"I was driving on Sanibel Captiva Road. We slow down right away and I count 21 cars behind a golf cart. I watch for two or three miles as one car after another pass the golf cart across the double yellow line. Help me understand your conclusion that the use of these vehicles would not have a negative impact on our island," he asked. "I'm trying to get my head around how we could conclude that this would not have a negative impact on traffic on our island by increasing the number of these vehicles on our island."