Two Cape Coral waterfront property owners struck out with City Council Monday night appealing Planning & Zoning Commission decisions denying requests for a second boat canopy at their docks.
One appeal, requested by homeowner Steve Hooton on Del Monte Court, showed a need to protect a second boat on a lift at his dock on the 80-foot-wide Del Monte Canal. The other appeal, filed by Jim Limbright on Southeast 24th Avenue, requested a second boat canopy that exceeds the city's height, width and length code to cover a 38-foot cruiser.
Discussion of the two cases, and the knowledge that four more marine improvement variances already are in the P&Z pipeline for June, prompted council members to also discuss revisiting the canopy ordinance itself.
The ordinance allows one boat canopy at any marine improvement at a single family homesite unless P&Z and the appeals process approves a deviation for the second canopy.
In both cases Monday, neighboring homeowners voiced multiple objections to allowing the second canopies, including navigational safety, obstructing views and property values.
Hooton claimed the second canopy would be smaller than the original one that existed when he purchased the property six months ago.
"You allow two boat lifts, but only one canopy," Hooton. "My wife and I came here from Orlando thinking this was a boat-friendly area. The canopy I'm requesting presents no navigation hazard because it would not extend into the navigation space, therefore no hazard. The canal also is a no wake zone. Denying the canopy would present a financial hardship on me trying to protect my boat investment from the weather."
Council agreed with the neighbors' objections and voted 7-1 to deny the appeal with Councilmember Rana Erbrick casting the dissenting vote.
Despite being located on a four-lot site with 320 feet of canal frontage on Mackenzie and Bronte canals, Limbright's case was rejected on a 7-1 vote of council largely due to the canopy's oversized dimensions. Limbright's proposal called for a canopy six feet longer, three feet wider and three feet taller than the city's maximum canopy code.
"I'm getting too old to wrestle with a cover on my 38-foot cruiser," said Limbright, who offered he was 70 years old. "The second cover extends farther over my dock than into the canal to shield the boat from the sun because of the angle, that's why it has to be larger."
Again, 11 neighbors on the 120-foot-wide Mackenzie Canal complained in person or by letters of losing views of the Caloosahatchee River from their properties if the second canopy is allowed.
Councilmember Rick Williams quizzed Limbright about why he wanted a second canopy if the boat was for sale.
"Both boats are for sale," Limbright responded. "The smaller boat is my wife's and the other is mine. One of them has to go."
Unlike the Hooton application where Planning & Zoning rejected it with a 6-0 vote, the commissioners voted 4-3 against the Limbright application. That, however, did not sway council's vote with member Richard Leon casting the dissenting vote and requesting a review of the ordinance itself.
Council expressed a belief that the right to petition for a second canopy may be creating the P&Z backlog and stream of appeals taken to council. It was pointed out that only 29 properties in the city have two boat lifts approved.
"That's nothing. Every year this comes up," said Councilmember Derrick Donnell, who made the motion to deny Hooton's appeal and voted accordingly on both cases.
Council agreed now is a good time to look at the ordinance and possibly strike the ability to appeal to council on second canopy applications.
Erbrick said, "We don't have time to change the ordinance before the June appeals. Besides, the applications were made under the current code. I will say that two of the June cases are marine enlargements and two are for canopies. I do agree that the ordinance needs to be looked at in perhaps a workshop setting."