Protect Captiva


Now that South Seas Island Resort has announced its intentions to radically increase density from 247 to 707 units with three-story buildings up to 64 feet in height – and now that our County Commissioners have paved the way for this overdevelopment on Captiva – it’s time for the “Protect Captiva” coalition to pursue every responsible legal option that we have the resources to undertake – which is why we’re seeking donations now.


The new owners of South Seas (Wheelock Street Capital, Timbers Resorts and The Ronto Group) have deep pockets. But our community has deeper concerns, a deeper understanding and commitment to Captiva, and a deeper trust in our community to protect itself. We also have the best attorneys who are lining up the best expert witnesses. We just need your generous contributions to the legal fund to take some or all of the following legal actions:

  • Florida law provides the Captiva community with the right to challenge the changes in the Lee County Land Development Code that now exempt South Seas from Captiva’s height and density limitations. These Code changes are unlawfully inconsistent with the Captiva Chapter of the Lee Plan that our community worked so hard for decades to incorporate into the Lee Plan to protect our barrier island. We have just filed the required initial petition with the County, followed by a petition to the Florida Department of Commerce which could then lead to a formal administrative hearing under Florida law– including full pre-hearing trial motions, discovery and a final evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge.
  • Florida’s Constitution does not permit Lee County to amend the density standards in its Land Development Code to give itself and the Board of County Commissioners unbridled discretion to approve “any rental unit size or density” for the new South Seas hotels on Captiva. By now exempting South Seas from all definite standards for hotel density in a planned development on Captiva, the County subjects itself to a state constitutional claim which we can bring in a Lee County Circuit Court.
  • The U.S. Constitution guarantees property owners on Captiva the right to equal protection under the law. Providing South Seas with greater density and height allowances than those granted to all other similarly-situated resorts and property owners on Captiva raises serious constitutional issues which we can raise in a federal lawsuit.
  • Finally, while the Land Development Code amendments are being adjudicated in the courts, our community has the right to intervene as a party in the South Seas rezoning process which is “quasi-judicial” and takes place before a hearing examiner. During this process, we can present expert testimony to show that South Seas is not entitled to increased building heights and densities, and that its development projects are not compatible with Captiva’s minimal infrastructure, its water and environmental resources, its sewer system, its limited hurricane evacuation capability, and are otherwise not in compliance with relevant County requirements.

To guarantee that our community has the legal resources to undertake these legal options and to do whatever is necessary to protect Captiva, we need your support and contributions now. However, we must be prepared for a legal battle that is long and protracted. The future of Captiva is at stake.


Op-Ed Concerning South Seas Island Resort’s Big Changes

Legislation Introduced to Create a Captiva Conservation Area

In direct response to the County’s efforts to increase building heights and density on Captiva, Adam Botana, our elected Representative to the Florida House of Representatives has offered to sponsor a bill to create a Captiva Island Conservation Area to protect and maintain Captiva’s current building heights and density.

This legislation, modeled after the Gasparilla Island Conservation District Act which protects building heights and density on Boca Grande, would do the following for Captiva:

  • Limit building heights to the current 28 feet above base flood elevation;
  • Limit density (including hotels and motels) to the current three units per acre;
  • Limit zoning to what exists currently;
  • And permit the build back of nonconforming buildings damaged by natural disaster in compliance with updated federal flood elevations without a reduction in use, density, intensity, size or square footage of the damaged buildings.

Please send an email with the following or similar message to each of our elected State officials.

We support Representative Botana’s efforts to create a Captiva Island Conservation Area which will protect our fragile barrier island and its vulnerable infrastructure and population by maintaining Captiva’s current building heights and density. We ask our Local Delegation to do everything possible to assist in the passage of this vital legislation.

Their email addresses are listed below:

Thank you for helping to protect Captiva. (A draft of the legislation can be viewed by clicking here or below).
~The “Protect Captiva” Coalition


In Case You Missed It: Protect Captiva From Increased Density Disguised as Resiliency

We’re continuing to oppose Lee County’s proposed Lee Plan amendments that would increase building heights on Captiva and open doors for increased density and traffic. The New-Press published a column by Protect Captiva Coalition member Lisa Riordan this past Sunday–on the front page of the Views Section.

In her column “Protect Captiva from Increased Density Disguised as Resiliency,” Lisa underscores the character and resolve of our community, making the county’s desire to alter the look and feel of Captiva all the more bewildering.

We agree with Lisa:

“Dramatically increasing density in our island community, where evacuation routes were already stretched to the limit last year, is shortsighted at best and potentially life-threatening.”

– Lisa Riordan, “Protect Captiva from Incareased Density Disguised as Resiliency”

As we prepare for the meeting on December 6, we will continue to share ways you can take action and help protect Captiva. If you are unable to attend the meeting, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to be involved and be heard.


Important Legal Update from the Land Use Committee of the Captiva Civic Association

As reported previously, Lee County transmitted its proposed amendments to the Captiva chapter of the Lee Plan to the State for its comments. While the State cannot reject outright the County’s amendments, its comments can induce the County to remove or modify the amendments, and they could affect the results of future litigation.

On October 6th, the Chief of the Bureau of Community Planning and Growth for the State of Florida sent the following comments to the Chairman Brian Hamman of the Lee County Board of County Commissioners:

“The Florida Department of Commerce has reviewed the proposed comprehensive plan amendment for Lee County received on September 7, 2023. The review was completed under the expedited state review process. After consideration of the proposed amendment and citizen input, we have a comment regarding the proposed amendment.

The amendment appears to fly a “false flag” of “resilience” as
primary purpose. When, in reality, the amendment is clearly at least in-part for the purpose of an increase in hotel room density. Whether or not an increase in hotel room density is appropriate is for the community to decide. Rather, we are simply urging you to have a transparent discussion with the community about the actual purpose of the amendment.

This comment from the Chief of the Bureau of Community Planning and Growth for the State of Florida confirms what the Captiva and Sanibel community has been respectfully advising the Board of County Commissioners since June 2023 – that the proposed amendments are not about “resiliency” but about increasing density and intensity on Captiva. And that the proposed amendments allow for an increase in hotel rooms and buildable living space on an narrow barrier island within the Coastal High Hazard Area with limited evacuation capacity just one year after our island was devastated by Hurricane Ian.

In addition to this comment from the State, our Attorney, continuing to represent a unified “Protect Captiva” coalition, is submitting a comprehensive legal memorandum asking the Board of County Commissioners NOT TO ADOPT the proposed Plan amendments and explaining why the amendments (i) are not necessary to allow for full “build back” of structures damaged by Hurricane Ian, (ii) raise serious “equal protection” constitutional issues by providing a special benefit to one property owner on Captiva, and (iii) make Captiva less resilient and less safe by increasing density and the intensity both inside and outside of South Seas Island Resort.

The State’s Chief of the Bureau of Community Planning and Growth also advised the County that “if the County receives reviewing agency comments and they are not resolved, these comments could form the basis for a challenge to the amendment after adoption.” It is our sincere hope that the County listens to the concerns of our community, and that further legal challenges are not required. However, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to “Protect Captiva” from over-development. And we continue to thank everyone for their support.

[The letter from the Bureau of Community Planning and Growth is available in its entirety below].


Captiva Code Amendment:

Disappointing Results at Public Hearing on September 5th

After a 2.5 hour public hearing with more than 50 speakers presenting, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 (Ruane opposed) to approve the Land Development Code amendments as originally presented in June. The coalition of island organizations which opposed these land use changes will be meeting to discuss next steps and possible legal options, and more information on those will be forthcoming soon.

We thank all the CCA members, island residents, owners, businesses, and visitors who gave their support and their voice to oppose these changes. As soon as the committee has met and next steps are determined we will post more information.

Legal Fund Established to Oppose Changes to Captiva’s Height and Density Regulations

Community Urged to Contribute

The Captiva Civic Association (CCA), in collaboration with CCA members who are also members of the Captiva Community Panel, the Council of Associations at South Seas, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), and Ding Darling Wildlife Society, has established a legal fund to protect Captiva’s existing height and density regulations.

(In photo above: CCA Board Member Lisa Riordan, SCCF CEO James Evans, & CCA Executive Director Emily Ankerson)

The hiring of the law firm and establishing the legal fund are the next steps after more than a month of community involvement opposing the proposed land use changes. 

CCA’s Land Use Committee, comprised of members of the five organizations will collectively oversee the legal work. To support this legal work, we are asking the community to contribute to this important legal fund. Any contributions made will not be tax deductible. All monies raised will be kept in a separate account and only be used for the legal services. 

Checks should be made out to CCA Foundation (in the memo please write Legal Fund) and mailed to PO Box 775, Captiva, FL 33924. Also, please include your name, address, phone number and email address for our recordkeeping. Your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. If you have any questions regarding a contribution, please call CCA Executive Director, Emily Ankerson at (239) 472-2111.  

We thank you for your continued support in opposing these changes which could be so harmful to the Captiva and Sanibel communities. 

August 2nd Meeting Held at BIG ARTS on Sanibel

Click here to access a recording of the August 2nd Meeting. (Please note: this meeting actually starts about 7:15 into the recording.)

July 13 Meeting at CCA – Recording and Transcripts and Supporting Materials

The Captiva Civic Association would like to apologize for the poor quality of the Zoom webinar option to attend the July 13 Lee County Workshop meeting. This was due to issues with our equipment, and we are working to rectify that for future virtual meeting options. Transcripts and supporting materials are available below. (The audio does get better about 35 minutes into the video.)

The link for the video of the July 13 Meeting is here:

Disclaimer: Please do not use the transcript below as a direct quote from any of the participants without contacting them. Due to the poor quality of the recording and the size of the room, it was difficult to make out what stakeholders were saying at times. It has been transcribed to the best of our ability, and should not be taken for verbatim. If we have misquoted anyone, it is not intentional. In some cases where we couldn’t even make a guess, we have just left a blank line: ____. Time stamps for areas in the video have been placed throughout, in parentheses, in case a reviewer would like to try to find certain parts of the recording. The first 30 minutes are very difficult to understand, then the audio improves.

Transcript to go along with Video of July 13 Meeting:


Slides from Anthony Rodriguez (Lee County) used at the July 13 Meeting:


To find the slides used by Greg Spencer (Timbers) at the July 13 meeting go to the following website:

CCA Endorses Resiliency Principles

The CCA Board of Governors has unanimously endorsed the “Resiliency Principles” drafted by the Captiva Community Panel in response to the County’s proposed amendments to increase building heights and density on Captiva and South Seas.  These “Principles” reflect the united voices of the Captiva and Sanibel communities – voices that were heard at the June 20th hearing and through the thousands of emails received by the Board of County Commissioners—and should become the basis for any proposed resiliency amendments. 


Brief Summary of the Proposed Changes:

At the behest of the new owners of South Seas Island Resort, Lee County has set a public hearing to consider changes to the county’s Land Development Code that would:

  • Eliminate the three-units-per-acre density restrictions inside South Seas, with no new density restrictions cited to replace them.
  • Exempt South Seas from Captiva’s building height restrictions.
  • Raise the permitted heights on Captiva by 11 feet — allowing the construction of three-story buildings above base flood elevation.
  • Create a path for South Seas to plan a new, larger development with buildings up to 75 feet high.

Under the guise of resiliency and conformity, the county is rushing to enact these sweeping changes without regard for the community’s concerns, prudent planning principles or preservation of Captiva’s unique and fragile environment.

Speak up! Send an email to each commissioner and make a call to oppose these building height and density changes:

District 1: Kevin Ruane – or (239) 533-2224
District 2: Cecil Pendergrass – or (239) 533-2227
District 3: Ray Sandelli – or (239) 533-2223
District 4: Brian Hamman, Chairman – or (239) 533-2226
District 5: Mike Greenwell, Vice Chairman – or (239) 533-2225

Local Organizations and Individuals Voice Concerns About the Proposed Changes

Click on the links to read letters and statements from these groups and islanders who have gone on the record to express concerns about this issue.











THANK YOU to everyone who sent emails and letters, made phone calls, shared information with their neighbors and friends, or spoke directly with the Commissioners…

THANK YOU to our community’s businesses and organizations for your strong support and for making your voices heard loud and clear…

THANK YOU to the members of the Sanibel City Council for calling an emergency meeting and voting unanimously to oppose the changes.

Our work is far from done. We will continue to join together with our coalition partners and the entire community.

Local Media Covering this Topic

OpEd by SCCF CEO James Evans:

CCA Community Informational Meeting Held Monday, June 12, 2023

The CCA hosted an informational meeting via Zoom Webinar to help the community understand more about this issue. Members from island organizations shared important information about the proposed changes and the concern about the impacts this would have on the land and community.

The motion made by the Captiva Community Panel on June 13 can be viewed by clicking here.

A recording of this meeting is available to view by clicking here.

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