Those recovering from Hurricane Ian in Cape Coral can breathe a sigh of relief as the city eliminated the five-year "cumulative impact rule," potentially saving residents with older homes from costly repairs.
Its removal means that repairs or improvements made by Cape Coral homeowners in the last five years will not go toward FEMA 50% rule, designed to bring older buildings up to code.
"This is the one area where we can help residents regarding the 50% rule, and I think that's important," Councilmember Tom Hayden said.
The 50% rule requires structures with substantial damage, or damage exceeding 50% of their market value, to meet the same requirements as new construction.
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That means older homes would have to be elevated if they received over 50% or greater damage, a tough proposition for some residents after Hurricane Ian damaged Cape Coral.
The Wednesday vote for the ordinance that modifies the land development code was unanimous, and several residents spoke in support of removing the cumulative rule.
Richard Durling, the owner of Marvin Homes, said he supports the change as it will be a great help for residents.
"Some of them are very near not being able to restore their homes under the 50% rule," Durling said.
He worries that the cumulative rule would affect residents who are not just repairing but reinforcing their homes.
"Many individuals have gone to the trouble of hardening their homes, with new impact windows and doors and roofs, and those would be picked up as part of a pre-permitted activity that would go against them," Durling said.
County and municipal governments have to meet federal guidelines for area homeowners to qualify for policies under the National Flood Insurance Program.
Cape Coral also participates in the Community Rating System and is a class 5 community, which grants them a 25% discount on flood insurance premiums, estimated at $7.8 million overall by the city.
Resident Dean Morris said she supports removing the cumulative rule but wants to see it gone only temporarily.
"We don't want to lose points on a permanent basis. Complying with the Community Rating system suggested activities saves not only money but more important lives and properties when there is a flood," Morris said.
The cumulative rule was passed years ago to help earn more points for the city, but this change will not affect their class 5 status.
The change affects structures in the special flood hazard area, but 40% of Cape Coral is in the area.
The city previously advised residents who own a home built before 1981 to not make major repairs to their homes until Dec. 1 as they worked to remove these previously established regulations.
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Wyatt Daltry, the planning team coordinator with the City of Cape Coral, said several properties built in the '60s and '70s may not have an elevation certificate, which was a requirement beginning in 1991.
Daltry said 7,543 structures in the city were built before flood maps were drawn, and 7,200 of those structures were residences in southeast Cape Coral.
He said the south Cape Coral experienced 1 to 2 feet of water and potentially hundreds of those homes sustained "substantial damage."
One speaker Lavon Grant saw the change as helpful but wants the city to do more.
She wants to see more employees working on permits, home inspections, and more resources to help people with fixing their homes.
"What are you going to do to help us, how many more people are you going to hire?" Grant said.
Luis Zambrano is a Watchdog/Cape Coral reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. You can reach Luis at Lzambrano@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @Lz2official.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Cape Coral OKs ordinance to help residents with Hurricane Ian repairs