La Ola restaurant container on Fort Myers Beach now considered illegal

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

What last month was seen as big progress on Fort Myers Beach is now illegal and has to go.

Fort Myers Beach told La Ola Restaurant it cannot have a bar in a stationary shopping container in Times Square.

The shipping container is the problem.

The container has been there for a month and the owner said he applied for permits.

When the shopping container arrived, it was celebrated and now it’s become a problem.

“I have previously received an initial notice that I had 30 days to comply with erecting a building without a building permit,” said owner Tom Houghton.  “I received notice that, that they were swapping out the what was on my containers for a 10-day warning citation.”

Houghton said he is receiving the citation even though town leaders supported the idea.

Now, the town said it has to go.

“It’s so frustrating, because it just seems like one thing after another, and you just can’t win,” Houghton said.

Why?

Because the container is in a “v-zone” or a vector “zone.”

That’s what FEMA calls land most susceptible to flooding.

“I know that he’s frustrated, concerned, disappointed, anxious, all these, you know, all these words, because he did everything by the book,” said Jacki Liszak, president of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Liszak wonders if the town does not allow these restaurants to come back and expand their operations.

How will the town expand its comeback?

Liszak she would like to see a grace period extended.

“I think that makes sense,” she added.

That’s what Houghton did.

He sent an email to some of the town leaders, asking for a meeting to discuss before he has to start paying fines.

He said he hasn’t heard back.

“Why the urgency, you know? We’re four months away from hurricane season right now. Why am I given 10 days to remove everything,” Houghton said. “It’s just really making it hard to stay.”

Liszak, who was at the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Jill Biden, said she spoke to the first lady about the issue.

A source told WINK News that representatives from FEMA and the Florida floodplain managers will be on Fort Myers Beach for a closed-door meeting with town leaders on Friday to discuss the topic.

WINK News will have more for you after the meeting.

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