SanibelSusan is happy to report that it has been another week of wonderful weather on the islands. The occasional summer shower has been at night, with the beaches and bike paths busy during the days with visitors and vacationers “out and about”.
The July 4th parade on Monday morning was well attended and once again a fabulous example of Sanibel’s small town camaraderie. Big thank you goes out to all those participating and watching, especially the members of the Cypress Lake High School Marching Band who made their first appearance. I posted more pictures on my personal Facebook page plus a video clip of the band passing my office.
The only complaints since Monday: it is hot – has been in the low 90’s most afternoons – and the negative press about the algae on the east coast has caused some confusion about the water here. More about that in the following news articles. After the news is the activity posted in the Sanibel & Captiva Multiple Listing Service since last Friday.
Know Your Rights Before Opening Your TRIM Notice
This article was posted on line June 16, 2016 by the local law firm of Henderson Franklin in their post “The Legal Scoop on Southwest Florida Real Estate”. It mentions some important upcoming deadlines for local Lee County property owners wanting to appeal their property classification or assessment. It says:
“As a property owner in Florida, you have a right to appeal the property appraiser’s assessment of your property’s value, a denial of your application for an exemption (homestead, veterans, or senior citizen), a portability denial, and a denial of our application for property classification such as agricultural or historic….
“Typically, once a taxpayer decides to bring a challenge based on any of the above-mentioned grounds, a request for an informal conference will be made with the County’s property appraiser to discuss the value or to discuss the denial of an application for a property exemption or classification. Following an informal conference, in the event that the issues cannot be favorably settled, taxpayers (or their representatives) can file a petition with the local Value Adjustment Board (VAB). Alternatively, Florida law allows taxpayers to bring such challenges in circuit court.
“Appeals to the Value Adjust Board (VAB) – Each VAB is comprised of five members, with two members from the board of county commissioners, one member from the school board, and two citizen members. Many counties in Southwest Florida (such as Lee County) have appointed a special magistrate to conduct hearings and recommend decisions to the VAB. Special magistrates are trained neutral arbiters who are oftentimes local licensed appraisers.
“Deadlines for Filing a Petition – Under Florida law, the deadlines for filing a petition are explained in detail. For appeals of the property appraiser’s assessment of your property, a petition must be filed within 25 days after the property appraiser mails the notice of Proposed Property Taxes (TRIM Notice), which is typically in mid-August. The filing deadline can be found on the TRIM notice itself. Moreover, petitions appealing the portability of your ad valorem taxes must be filed with 25 days after the property appraiser mails your TRIM notice.
“For appeals of an exemption or classification of your property, a petition must be filed with 30 days after the property appraiser mails the denial notice, which the property appraiser must mail before July 1st. Once the petition has been filed, the taxpayer will receive a notice with the date, time, and location of the hearing at least 25 days before the hearing date. An exchange of evidence will occur thereafter, whereby the taxpayer must give the property appraiser a list and summary of evidence that will be presented at the hearing. Likewise, if a written request is made to the property appraiser by the taxpayer, the property appraiser is required to provide a list and summary of the County’s evidence that will be presented at least seven days before the hearing.
“As a reminder, it is important to note that even though a petition may have been filed with the VAB, the petition must be denied if the taxpayer has not paid his or her non ad valorem assessments and ad valorem taxes before they become delinquent.
“Take Away – Each year, the local property appraiser establishes the value of your property as of January 1st. Since TRIM notices will soon be delivered to property owners around Southwest Florida, it is important to know your rights and the procedures for pursuing an appeal to your local VAB….”
Sea Turtle Nest Hatches on Sanibel
As reported this week in the “Santiva Chronicle”: “The first loggerhead sea turtle to hatch on Sanibel was Thursday, July 1. Visible along with the small tracks is the mesh SCCF places over nests to protect them from coyotes. Photo by Carol Strange
“Last year was a year to remember for sea turtles on Sanibel and Captiva. Turtles set a record for nests in a season. A year later, 2016 is on pace to do even better.
“In its weekly report issued Friday, July 1, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation said 486 loggerhead sea turtle nests have been found, recorded and staked off by the cadre of volunteers that combs the beaches each morning during nesting season.
“That total is ahead of last year’s nest total on the corresponding date from last year. On July 3 last year, SCCF had found 468 nests.
“Two of SCCF’s three nesting zones are ahead of 2015. Sanibel West, always the most populated area for nests, has 261 nests and slightly lags 2015 when there were 280 nests. Sanibel East, the area near the lighthouse, is seven ahead of last year with 98. Meanwhile Captiva continues at a torrid pace with 127 nests. That’s 20 more than last year and appears ready to threaten the Captiva record of 179 nests set in 2000.
Captiva wears the honor of having the first nests of the season to hatch. The first two were on Captiva. During the past week, Sanibel has recorded its first hatched nest. That happened June 30 and was reported by volunteer Carol Strange, who also took photographs.
“Meanwhile, the overnight turtle-tagging team, on duty for the first time this year, has come across 158 sea turtles during their surveys. Some of them are previously encountered turtles, providing valuable data about nesting habits.
“Here are the numbers from SCCF as of Friday, July 1, with last week’s numbers in parenthesis:
- Sanibel East – 98 (82) nests, 219 (197) false crawls
- Sanibel West – 261 (211) nests, 514 (421) false crawls
- Captiva – 127 (109) nests, 184 (131) false crawls
- Totals: 486 (402) nests, 917 (749) false crawls”
No Slime on Sanibel Beaches, but Dark Water Doing Damage
Good write-up explaining the water situation here was published on-line Wed by the “Santiva Chronicle”:
“The phone is ringing at Sanibel City Hall. The people on the other end want to know about the water. “The calls are coming in from all over – Ohio, New Jersey, all around,” James Evans, Sanibel director of Natural Resources, said Tuesday, July 5. “People want to know about the quality of the water and they are disappointed to hear that it is dark.”
“Evans is forced to report that the water is brown, but is also able to report that it is not slimy from blue-green algae blooms. An explosion of blue-green algae blooms has hit the East Coast of Florida in Martin County. When Lee County was added to Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency over the algae blooms, the assumption was that the blue-green algae is on Lee County’s beaches, including Sanibel and Captiva.
““Our beaches are in a very different situation from those on the East Coast,” Evans said. “What we are experiencing is a plume of dark water. There is no blue-green algae on the beaches, but we are seeing some in stagnant areas of the Caloosahatchee River.”
“Evans’ assessment is re-enforced by Rick Bartleson, marine biologist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. “The water is brown, but the cyanobacteria numbers were down some today (Tuesday) and we aren’t seeing blue-green algae blooms here right now,” Bartleson said.
“The blooms are fed by the ongoing high levels of water being released from Lake Okeechobee down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers as a result of historic rains that drenched South Florida in January. Sixteen inches fell on Sanibel when the historical average is less than two inches. Both rivers are receiving too much water, as much as three times desired flows, in order to protect Lake Okeechobee’s aging Herbert Hoover Dike. But the situations are different.
““The St. Lucie is a smaller river and the estuary is small. So when there is a bloom there is a really big effect, and that’s what we are seeing,” Bartleson said. “We have a larger estuary and there is more dilution.”
“It’s comparing apples and oranges,” Evans said. “The St. Lucie is a much smaller system and another big difference is that we are 70 miles from the lake. The Caloosahatchee has a much more extensive marsh that can dilute the algae. We’re lucky because the nutrient levels we are getting are just as high.”
““It’s two different systems and they react in two different ways,” he said. “We are very concerned about excess nutrient loading.” Blue-green algae blooms occur naturally, but are fed by nutrients in water runoff. Blue-green algae makes its own nitrogen but needs phosphorus.
The beaches in Martin County are covered with slime from the blue-green algae. The situation on the Treasure Coast near Stuart and other beach communities has made national news, including a recent report in the New York Times and a report Tuesday morning on The Weather Channel.
““I’ve seen it on the national news and its very damaging,” Evans said. “It’s on social media that the water quality is bad. Those things linger and stick around for a long time. We are not seeing blue-green algae, but we are seeing dark water all along Sanibel’s beaches. It’s a big concern for all of us. It hurts people’s ability to enjoy the beaches. It hurts business. It affects our quality of life.”
“Also likely to linger for a long time are the effects on the Caloosahatchee’s estuary in San Carlos Bay. The estuary is clouded, a fact that does more than just chase tourists away. The beaches are safe to visit and don’t pose a health problem for healthy people, but the water is brown.
““The flows from Lake Okeechobee have been way too high for the critters and the seagrass in the estuary,” Bartleson said. “It’s been way above the harm level and that kills a lot of things in the estuary. Lots of oysters and other critters are dying.”
“Evans takes note of the city’s telling pictures at the top of this page. (Will repost on SanibelSusan.com blog later today)
““On June 2 the bay was a beautiful blue green. Three weeks later it’s dark brown, almost black,” Evans said.
“We are really concerned about the ecological effects,” he said. “Seagrasses are dying and floating to the surface and washing up on the beach. We’ve received too much fresh water and the estuary is in salinity shock that’s causing important habitat destruction.
“The brown water also blocks light from seagrass, which below one meter is currently not getting enough light, Bartleson said. The roots die when the leaves can’t produce oxygen for them.
““People come to enjoy our beaches. They come to fish and enjoy our other natural treasures. All that is affected by the excess water releases,” Evans said.
“The blue-green algae bloom on the Treasure Coast, the governor’s emergency order and the resulting media coverage once again highlight the overall problem. The dike around the lake is aging and needs work. But the bigger issue is where the water goes. Once it flowed naturally out of Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades. Man changed that by connecting the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee to the north end of the lake to create farmland to the south of the lake. That happened a century ago and the long term effects are being felt now.
“Gov. Scott’s emergency order prompted the South Florida Water Management District to seek land to store water on. That’s something that water quality advocates are always pushing for.
““A new study by the University of Florida says that water storage is needed both north and south of the lake,” Evans said. “The governor’s order has brought attention to the issues.”
““South Florida used to be 50 percent wetlands,” Bartleson said. “It’s hard to find the wetlands now.””
Mayor Ruane Sees Dirty Water & Silver Lining
There was a good follow-up today to the above article. Again from the “Santiva Chronicle”:
“Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane doesn’t like what he sees when he drives across the Sanibel Causeway these days. He knows the brown water below him in San Carlos Bay is causing serious economic damage and he knows without being able to see through it, that the water is causing serious harm to oysters, seagrass and other marine life that lives here.
“The view also gives the mayor hope and stiffens his resolve.
“I’m disappointed and disheartened,” Ruane said Thursday, July 7. “I’ve seen this movie before. In 2013 we had the same problems, but now I feel there is more political will than ever before.”
“Ruane’s remarks came about an hour before he released through mysanibel.com the city’s latest update on the South Florida water crisis that has fostered blue-green algae blooms on the east coast, millions of gallons of dirty water to both coasts, a state of emergency from Gov. Rick Scott and finger-pointing at the Obama Administration.
“Sanibel has been water-conscious since before its founding. The unprecedented rainfall in January raised the awareness of everyone in South Florida and Sanibel was ready. Its white paper “Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues” written by James Evans, Sanibel director of Natural Resources, offers short- and long-term solutions for storage and treatment of water and states Sanibel’s position. Ruane drew heavily on the white paper in his update to Sanibel citizens Thursday.
““We just all need to get on the same page,” Ruane said. “If there is a silver lining here, that may be it.”
In the days since the algae-bloom wrecked beaches on Florida’s Treasure Coast in Martin County, Ruane has seen the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announce that it will be releasing less water from Lake Okeechobee and the South Florida Water Management District announce that it is seeking more land to store excess water on.
““We asked for those things back in February. They are doing nothing more today than what we have been asking for all along. I don’t know why we have to get to an emergency standpoint before things happen,” Ruane said.
“But it’s not like nothing was going on before the latest algae blooms. The coalition of Lee County mayors, in which Ruane plays a leading role, continues to press for public awareness and political action. Together with the Florida League of Cities, the mayors hosted a water quality symposium in Fort Myers that brought together 19 counties.
““We had 19 counties represented there, and that represents about $1.3 trillion. It was very successful, so successful that it will be repeated in Stuart on the East Coast in August,” Ruane said. “Credit the mayors for bringing this to the forefront and keeping everyone’s eye on the ball.”
“Sanibel City Hall, Ruane said, has been hit with phone calls from around the country. Lee County was included along with East Coast counties Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach in Gov. Scott’s state of emergency declaration. Even though Lee County and Sanibel don’t presently have blue-green algae blooms, the general impression from national news coverage is that it does.
““We are having people writing and calling. We cannot deny that we’ve had excess water releases, but unlike the other coast, we have 70 miles along the river to dilute the algae blooms and we don’t have blue-green algae,” Ruane said.
““We’ve been explaining that a lot. It wasn’t a quiet Fourth of July,” he said.”
NAR Pressures Senate Over Flood Insurance
As reported last Friday by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR):
“The rising costs of flood insurance are posing “significant hurdles” to small businesses and home owners, David McKey, 2016 Vice Chair of the National Association of REALTORS®’ Insurance Committee, testified to a Senate committee this week. Potentially, up to 1 million properties may be affected.
“”Despite everything that’s been done on this issue, the threat of a $30,000 flood insurance premium still looms,” McKey testified to the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee on Thursday. “A few years ago, the uncertainty over future rate increases was enough for buyers to direct REALTORS® not to show them any listings in the floodplain. That’s enough to worry business owners and home owners alike, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
“McKey said that rates continue to rise significantly by up to 25% each year until policy-holders reach their “full-cost rate.” In order for businesses and home owners to prove they’ve reached that threshold, they must hire a licensed surveyor and provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an elevation certificate. Once the certificate shows the property owner has reached the full-cost rate, the owner can then request an optional full-risk rating to end the 25 percent increases, or the increases will continue, NAR explains.
“McKey testified that it is an “endless escalator” of rising costs, and he asked the committee to consider changes.
“McKey offered NAR’s support for several possible solutions, such as reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, which sunsets in October 2017. McKey also said NAR supports using advanced technology to improve the accuracy of flood maps, which can help better determine who will face escalating rates and reduce the number of property owners who have to file pricey appeals.
“McKey also asked the committee to consider authorizing the use of funds to proactively mitigate properties in hazard areas, such as by flood proofing, elevating, or strengthening a property against the risk.
“”Unfortunately, while funding is currently available for mitigation efforts, funds typically aren’t accessible until after a flood event, when costs are higher and the damage has already occurred,” McKey stated.
“”REALTORS® see the effect of rising flood insurance rates firsthand in their businesses and in the local communities. But commonsense solutions to the problem are well within reach.””
Sanibel & Captiva Islands Multiple Listing Service Activity July 1-8, 2016
1 new listing: Tennisplace #C21 2/1.5 $385,555.
1 price change: Tigua Cay #487 3/3.5 now $1.899M.
3 new sales: Island Beach Club #210B 2/2 listed at $589K, Villa Sanibel #1B 2/2 listed at $595K, Oceans Reach #1A1 2/2 listed at $999.9K.
1 closed sale: Sanibel Moorings #421 2/2 $449K.
No new listings.
4 price changes: 956 Dixie Beach Blvd 2/1 now $385K, 588 Hideaway Ct 3/2 now $699K, 243 Southwinds Dr 4/2.5 now $999K, 4440 Waters Edge Ln 3/3 now $1,290,010.
1 new sale: 9292 Belding Dr 3/2.5 listed at $429K.
4 closed sales: 1410 Causey Ct 3/2 $510K, 645 Lake Murex Dir 3/2 $780K, 841 Lindgren Blvd 2/2 (for statistics) $885K, 1245 Isabel Dr 3/3.5 $1,500,125.
No new listings.
1 price changes: 4566 Buck Key Rd now $199K.
No new sales or closings.
No new listings, price changes, new sales, or closings.
No new listings.
1 price change: 16447 Captiva Dr 6/5.5.5 now $3.75M.
No new sales or closings.
No new listings, price changes, or new sales.
1 closing: 16298 Captiva Dr $4.9M.
(This representation is based, in whole, or in part, on data supplied by the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors® or its Multiple Listing Service. Neither the association nor its MLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the association or its MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. The information provided represents general real estate activity in the community and does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions.)
Until next Friday,
Susan Andrews, aka SanibelSusan