Fort Myers Beach residents voice concerns, ask questions at town hall meeting

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

People in Fort Myers Beach are running out of options after the hurricane, and now they are desperate and angry.

Residents packed a tent on the island to ask and, hopefully, have their questions answered.

The first of the many issues addressed was the 50% rule that keeps some people from rebuilding their homes. Older homes with significant damage were built under different codes.

If the rebuild costs more than half the house’s value, residents worry they must demolish and rebuild, but they can’t afford that.

“If the insurance pays us $700,000 for what was there, then that’s it? You can’t because the new house is probably going to be well over a million [dollars],” said one resident at the town hall meeting.

Condos were also a point of confusion for residents. One condo treasurer says they’ve been hit with a six-figure bill for debris removal, and all the debris is from a destroyed hotel and two businesses.

“For a $390,000 bill, we wish just somebody would pay a little bit of it. We know our fishing poles and our beach chairs might have been some of that debris, but it wasn’t the rest,” the condo treasurer said.

Some people also voiced their concerns that they just aren’t getting enough money to recover. For example, their policy may have valued their home at $700,000, and even if the insurance company pays the full amount, they’re saying with inflation, the cost of rebuilding is well over a million dollars, and they can’t afford it.

They say the SBA is not helping in those situations. The SBA gave a response to those questions, saying that if your insurance pays you the full amount of what your home was insured for, they can’t pay anything above that.

If the insurance company does not pay the full amount, that’s when they can step in.

When it comes to temporary housing in the form of trailers? FEMA says if your property is in a floodplain, they can’t put a trailer on your property.

“It requires a lot of different steps. Everything from inspections to utilities to hookups and evaluating where it is within the floodplain and whether it would be allowed in that floodplain area,” said a FEMA representative.

FEMA is looking at 12 different sites to build a trailer park with utilities and hookups where people can live in temporary housing who need it.

The final discussion point came from the town of Fort Myers Beach. The town’s manager says their town council building was only insured for $2 million and said estimates to rebuild are around $16 million. On top of that, the city is losing revenue it normally collects from parking, hotels, and property taxes.

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