National Planning Landmark, American Planning Association
“In 1976, the City of Sanibel, Florida, took an innovative approach to comprehensive planning by identifying and establishing nine major ecological zones to help planners designate appropriate land uses, intensity, and performance standards for the island. The result was a comprehensive plan that has allowed Sanibel to grow yet not exceed the island's natural carrying capacity”
Sanibel is a barrier island off the southwest coast of Florida, long renowned for rare seashells, wild beaches, and abundant wildlife. In 1974, after a decade of intensive development that threatened to degrade Sanibel’s natural environment, residents voted to incorporate as a city to in order to gain political control of future development.
The Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Sanibel evolved out of a collaboration between planners and lawyers, and legal issues influenced the entire planning process. Since its adoption in 1976, the Sanibel Plan has withstood legal challenge and has been cited as a benchmark of successful integration of environmental and legal concerns. It was an early example of the use of performance standards to guide and regulate development.
The Sanibel Plan is the official document adopted by the city in 1976 and subsequently revised. The report by Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd and the law firm of Ross, Hardies, O’Keefe, Babcock & Parsons, produced for the City of Sanibel Florida, was the basis for the plan. I was the principal planner for WMRT’s work, with William Roberts, partner-in-charge, and Jonathon Sutton, associate partner in charge.
“Sanibel changed the nature of municipal planning within Florida when it made the island’s sensitive ecology the basis of its plan.” Wayne Daltry, Lee County Smart Growth Task Force.