At least half a dozen condominium developments on Fort Myers Beach have sued their insurance companies over insurance reimbursements from Hurricane Ian and many remain unopened as they continue to work on repairs, representatives said Thursday at a special town council meeting to hear from condo boards. Some said they were starting to get short on cash due to prolonged delays over insurance battles.

Few of the condo representatives who spoke to the council said their buildings were habitable yet. There are thousands of condominium units on Fort Myers Beach. Many are primarily occupied in the winter though some have also been full-time residences. In recent years, more of the units have been used as vacation rentals. With the rental money dried up at most places, the financial stress has grown at some buildings.

Gary Becker, of Palm Harbor Club, said insurance had only paid out about $400,000 despite $5 million in damages. “We have exhausted our reserves,” Becker said. They have turned the matter over to their attorneys. Becker said the board may have to do a “huge assessment” on condo owners. “We are trying to repair it,” Becker said. They have 26 units that still can’t be occupied.

Representatives had varying opinions on the town’s permitting system, from some who said it was moving well to others who said the town’s understaffing was leading to delays and others who blamed their contractors for not handling the permits timely and properly. There were suggestions the town should work closer with Lee County for permitting help.

Some said they wanted relaxations on permitting regulations concerning permitting for such aspects of their rebuilding as tiling and drywall.

At least half a dozen condo developments on Fort Myers Beach have been involved in litigation with their insurance carriers over reimbursement from Hurricane Ian damage.


“Costs have exploded,” said Mike Close of Cresciente. Close said the development and its 172 units experienced more than $20 million in losses. Close said the town’s permitting system was leading to delays for the rebuilding of a pool that was totally destroyed by Hurricane Ian and now has to go through hearings again. Close complained about having to submit paperwork to the town for $22,000 of drywall work on the first floor.

“We have to submit a lot of paperwork to town staff,” Close said. “Use common sense.”

Others said town permitting fees are too high.

Jim Cecil, president of Admiral’s Bay, said they were charged $14,000 by the town for permitting. Cecil asked how the town was factoring the cost of permits. “I would like to know what we are getting for it,” he said.

Joe Specht, the town’s new building official, said he would look into it. “I am still in discovery mode,” he said. Specht said he has been with the town a little over a month and is trying to speed up permits. Joe said he is trying to speed up permits.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach entered into a contract in October with the Jacobs Project Management Company for the amount of $538,000 for building inspection and permitting services, and to aid the town’s planning review and community development office. Jacobs Project Management Company

Cecil said Admiral’s Bay is also in litigation over the replacement of windows elevators at the condo building. The replacement of elevators at condo buildings has been a common problem due to delays in parts from manufacturers.

Dave Nusbaum, representing Island Winds, called on the town to request from the state a moratorium on cash reserve regulations for condos. Nusbaum said the condo owners at Island Winds are running out of cash as they battle with insurance and spend money on costly repairs.

Edward Smith, of Harbour Pointe, said “we are all hurting for money.”

Jim Waltour, representing the Riviera Club, credited the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District with their quick responses and help on permits.

Waltour their rebuilding process improved after a change on their condo board led to the board taking over the permitting application process from their contractors after prolonged delays. Waltour a changed was made after a failure from a contractor to quickly respond to an issue identified by the fire district in an application for a new fire suppression system. Waltour said the fire department’s quick response was “crucial.” He wanted the town’s building department to make more staff available to walk the property to deal with permit issues.

Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Scott Wirth, who is also a general contractor, said one issue he had encountered in permit applications was that some contractors were not properly engineering some plans which led to delays for permitting requests.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers said another meeting would be held to follow up. “It was very clear they are all dealing with similar issues with insurance, FEMA, Small Business Administration, and Florida Power and Light,” Allers said. “The town will continue to assist in any way to ensure we get our residents back into their homes as soon as possible.”

Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Jim Atterholt encouraged condo owners to contact state and federal representatives regarding their issues to get more help.

Atterholt said Thursday’s meeting “was an excellent opportunity for Town and Fire officials to hear directly from the folks on the front lines and answer questions.”

Atterholt said “it appeared that many of the remaining problems are with insurance companies, new state reserving requirements for condos, Florida Power and Light and federal agencies like Small Business Administration (SBA) and FEMA. It is so important for folks to also reach out to the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s office to report insurance company abuses, their state legislators for a moratorium on the reserve requirements, Florida Public Service Commission for lack of response from Florida Power and Light and their members of Congress for help with SBA and FEMA. The Town hopes that we can have regular meetings with the condo leadership so we can help resolve any remaining issues.”