Mayor Dennis Boback, Interim Town Manager Jim Steele, and other town staff hosted an open house for contractors at Town Hall on Wednesday June 8th. Mayor Boback explained, “This is an informal session to discuss issues and solutions regarding our building permitting process.”
Joining the Mayor and Interim Town Manager were Kara Stewart, Community Development Department and Building Inspectors Randy Southard and Randy Simes. Boback indicated the goal was to make the permitting process easier and faster for all concerned.
Five different contracting companies attended and offered feedback on permitting issues they have experienced lately. Two experienced contractors offered comments that their experiences had been consistent and favorable over time and they were attending to just stay informed and up to date.
Problems discussed included the following:
Town Hall staff limitations — Permit applications can arrive in bunches causing back up with limited staff, and any staff vacations scheduled complicate the problem.
Lack of familiarity with local codes — Contractors often rely on architects and engineers to prepare or revise plans, and this can cause project slow downs. Some are slow to respond in general and others are just not familiar with Fort Myers Beach and/or Lee County codes.
FPL Delays — Delays between final electrical inspection and FPL allowing the property owner to open account and initiate service on new construction were also addressed. Town staff agreed to discuss how to expedite this process with FPL.
Drainage issues — New home construction next to older and lower elevation structures is another consistent source of required plan revisions and expensive solutions for builders. Building on empty lots and the required elevation of new structures can alter previous drainage paths. Staff was advised this issue needs attention as the problem will be getting worse with more residential redevelopment on Fort Myers Beach.
Plan Revisions — Contractors asked for better guidelines on plan revisions — which ones can be administratively approved and which ones require going through entire plan approval process again. Current approval practices appear to lack consistency from contractor’s view, which can end up delaying construction.
FEMA 50% Rule – Several contractors explained that disclosure and clarification of the FEMA 50% rule can be a problem. Many property buyers approach contractors with extensive plans for remodeling, that are not permissible based on FEMA’s rules limiting remodeling to 50% of the structures current appraised value, excluding land every 5 years, Contractors suffer from delivering this news to many for the first time. They suggested making information on this subject on the Town website easier to find and hand-outs for contractors to help educate the public on what can and can not be done on properties identified by FEMA as being in restricted flood plain areas. The Town has produced a FEMA 50% Rule Frequently Asked Questions handout that can be found by searching “50% Rule” on the Town’s website.
Mayor Boback summarized the morning meeting, thanked all who attended and indicated future meetings could be held as the need arises.