After a lengthy discussion, the Planning Commission voted to approve a development permit with a resolution to be voted on at the next meeting.
Planning Commissioner Chuck Ketterman made the motion to accept the proposal, construction of a new pod addition to an existing single family dwelling for a office and art studio, with the conditions outlined by staff. He said given there were some testimony from the public less that supportive of the proposal, a resolution will be prepared and brought back to the next meeting for a final vote. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote. Christopher Heidrick and John Talmage were absent.
In 1986, the Planning Commission reviewed several applications that involved single-family homes with separate pod structures, resulting in short-form applications when the development permit had a minimum wall-to-wall separation between principal structure and pod structure not exceeding 12 feet, the pod structure is connected to the main structure with a deck/walkway and roof and the pod structure does not contain a separate kitchen facility.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Planning Commission discussed a long-form application for a development permit for property located at 1233 Middle Gulf Drive. The pod structure proposed use was an office and art studio with a bathroom.
The proposed addition includes a 29 foot wall-to-wall separation between the existing residence and the pod. The connection will be done by a existing covered porch area through a covered walkway, a roof.
Steve Hartsell, of Pavese Law Firm, spoke on behalf of his clients Stephen and Ellen Baugh. He said towards the north is the wetland preservation area, which extends into the applicant's lot keeping them from being able to build a connecting addition directly to the existing home.
"They are staying out of the wetlands there, which puts them on the other side of their existing pool cage. Consequently what they have done was use an elevated roof, covered walkway to connect to the addition to the principal structure," Hartsell said.
When the subdivision was approved, he said the city designed the lot as a duplex lot.
Benjamin Pople, with the City of Sanibel planning department, said the design shows that the wall-to-wall separation is more than 12 feet. He said the structure did not show a kitchen design and does not have a separate living area and is integrated into the use of the single-family residence.
"Staff finds that the proposed addition is not a separate use, or structure," he said.
Chairman Phillip Marks said there are several sabel palms that are in the footprint. He said since they are native palms they need to be moved, but not cut down.
"I guess if they cannot move them safely, then they will have to replace them. I believe the Department of Natural Resources says every one you cut down, you have to put two in. The sabel palms are very easily transplanted. Even if they are just a little bit outside of the tape area, with all the construction and compact to the soil, it will affect those palms and probably decline. They need to be moved somewhere else on the property, probably somewhere else before the construction begins," he said.
Pople said the vegetation plan does call for transplanting native plants in the area, which are proposed to be located along the southwest property line to increase the visual bumper.
Marks also touched upon the definition of a kitchen because he believes there was mention of a microwave, small refrigerator and small sink. After Pople said the only mention he knew about was a sink in the restroom, it ignited another question from Marks after it was stated the bathroom would also have a toilet and a shower.
"Some restrooms just have a sink, and a toilet, and some have a shower. To me it is more of a secondary domicile because if you are just going down to your office to work you don't need a shower," Marks said. "All you need is a restroom."
Planning Director James Jordan said the design and layout points more to a nonbedroom, than a bedroom. He said even if it were converted to a bedroom at some later time, the use itself as a bedroom does not change the outside appearance of the structure.
"As long as that use does not pertain, in the staff's opinion, a separate kitchen facility. That is the issue we have had in the past that these have become guest homes, grammy quarters, or nanny quarters," Jordan said.
Marks said to the millennial, 25-40 years of age do not even know how to use a stove - a microwave, a small refrigerator and a sink is a complete kitchen to these people. He also touched upon the proposed office and art studio could be used as a sleeping area when family gatherings take place. Marks asked staff if there was mention of a couch, a Murphy bed built into a wall, or a futon.
City Attorney Ken Cuyler said that issue does not matter when used as an office, or an art studio, or a bedroom, as long as it does not have a separate kitchen.
"I think the planning staff is trying to point out it would still be considered as a single unit even if it were converted to a bedroom," he said.
Planning Commissioner Holly Smith said in her past life she was an appraiser on the island and has seen numerous pods that have been built from ground up, or as an addition later on.
"I think we need to be very careful that we are not micromanaging whether a microwave is considered a kitchen, or an undercounted refrigerator is considered a kitchen. I do not believe they are. If it has a range, and an oven, that is typically what is considered a kitchen," she said. "How many people have a second refrigerator in their home? Their laundry room does not constitute a second kitchen. I think we need to be careful that we are not trying to judge whether it is an art studio, or a bedroom because the rules are allowed they can have this, whether it is a bedroom, office, or art studio, or whatever they want to call it. It's allowable on its code."
Hartsell said it clearly does not have a kitchen, or believe there is a microwave or refrigerator called for in the addition.