CAPTIVA, Fla. — Harsh words from a state agency when it comes to a Lee County plan to change building height requirements on Captiva, going so far as to call it "a false flag of resilience."
This comes as the county claims the changes are to better protect against the next storm.
The Bureau of Community Planning and Growth within the Florida Department of Commerce (FloridaCommerce) sent a glaring response to Lee County after it approved changes to building heights on Captiva.
Those changes include allowing a third floor to be built on houses and special exemptions for the South Seas Resort, to build even higher.
"It validates what the community has been saying all along, that this proposal was never about resiliency," said Lisa Riordan is the chair of the Captiva Civic Association Land Use Committee.
She says the county seemed to be ignoring a lot of effects these changes would have on the community.
"We were looking out for the safety and the effect on the community. We were concerned about evacuation routes. We were concerned about the effects on our wastewater treatment," said Riordan.
When the county commissioners approved this amendment, they said they were doing it, to build back more resilient after Hurricane Ian.
But the letter from FloridaCommerce called that "a false flag of resilience."
The letter went on to say, "The amendment is clearly at least in part for the purpose of increase in hotel room density."
It urged the commission to have "a transparent discussion with the community about the actual purpose of the amendment."
This is likely in reference to the exemptions given to South Seas and Timber Resorts that give them the right to apply for more hotel rooms and higher buildings than previously allowed.
The county is currently in the final adoption stage of the Lee County plan amendment process which will give us, and the rest of coastal Lee County, clarity on how to proceed with redevelopment post Hurricane Ian. Once we have this clarity, we will work through our recovery and redevelopment plans. As we have committed to, we will share our plans with the public before anything gets presented to Lee County for zoning consideration.
Thank you to the Lee County government for the action they took in September. Approval of the amendment ultimately provides the clarity needed for the economic recovery of Lee County. South Seas looks forward to being a continued strong partner in that recovery.
That said, Riordan says they aren't against the resort from building back and being successful.
"To bring back the communities, as much as we can, the way they were prior to the storm,” said Riordan. “Of course, there will be some changes. But, we are looking for all businesses to be successful, including timbers."
Fox 4 reached out to Lee County about their response to this letter, but they declined to comment at this time.
As of now, the county has 6 months to choose whether they will adopt, adopt with changes, or choose not to adopt the proposed amendment. Right now, there is nothing on the calendar.