Mayor, Town Manager Livid Over FEMA Boot

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Why? Why was Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Estero, Bonita Springs and Unincorporated Lee County Kicked out of the National Flood Insurance discount program? And why was Sanibel and the City of Fort Myers allowed to stay in?

Those are questions elected officials and staff members from each municipality are unable to answer. So far Lee County, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach have all read into the public record timelines of communications with FEMA since Hurricane Ian barreled through Southwest Florida on September 28, 2022. The City of Estero next meets on April 17th.

FEMA has not responded to multiple requests we’ve submitted to several different offices to try to get more detail.

It appears FEMA has determined, without providing any specific data, that Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Lee County, Bonita and Estero did not monitor their residents closely enough when it comes to enforcing FEMA’s 50% rule, and work being done without a permit. As a result, FEMA called all 5 municipalities on Thursday, March 28th, and told them their residents would no longer receive a discount in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each municipality was at a 5 rating which resulted in a 25% discount. On October 1st 2024, each municipality will become a 10 and receive a 0% discount. FEMA told each municipality they cannot appeal the decision.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management prepared an undated one-sheet (READ IT HERE) for the municipalities with details on the process FEMA says it went through in 2023, looking at these communities, and what was being rebuilt. The document ends with a number of properties in each municipality FEMA says broke the rules. FEMA claims they witnessed 105 properties on Fort Myers Beach that broke the rebuilding rules. They also claim that 21% of the work on the island post-Ian was being done without a permit (21% was the lowest percentage out of all 5 municipalities on the FEMA naughty list).

At the end of the day it’s the responsibility of each municipality to enforce the building rules and codes. Each municipality has a Flood Plain Manager that is assigned to work specifically with FEMA and the NFIP. The 4 municipalities that have gone public so far say they answered all of FEMA’s requests for information on time, they were following the rules, and going after their rule-breakers. If they all provided documentation to prove that, what’s the problem here?

Again, without getting any specific detail or explanation from FEMA, it appears FEMA either doesn’t believe the information the municipalities provided was accurate based on their field tours, they didn’t receive documents they asked for, or it’s some other unknown reason that they have not shared yet. Right now, all anyone can do is try to guess.

On Thursday, at a special Town Council meeting, Mayor Dan Allers read a timeline of communication with FEMA into the record. We’ve posted that at the end of this story. Since becoming Mayor, Allers has been warning residents that if they are doing work without a permit the will eventually get caught. He said Thursday that he was told by FEMA back in February of 2023 that as long as the town follows the rules they had in place before the storm they would be compliant with FEMA’s regulations. “We were doing that. We took their guidance very seriously. We were strict with people to be compliant. We’ve done everything they’ve asked of us.” And, he believes the timeline below proves his point.

Also on Thursday Fort Myers Beach Town Manager Andy Hyatt addressed the 105 properties on the FDEM one-sheet. Hyatt said the 105 properties were sent to the town in December of 2023.
– 5 addresses of the list did not even exist
– 2 properties were not in the town’s jurisdiction
– 4 addresses included structures that were compliant
– 5 addresses with potential substantial damage will need enforcement
– 28 addresses include properties where code enforcement opened cases.
– 5 addresses did not find any evidence of work completed.
– 51 addresses were found to be compliant, not substantially damaged or improved.

Hyatt echoed the managers from Lee County, Cape Coral, Lee County and Bonita. “We’ve been on top of everything and we’re at a loss as to why this has happened. We’ve given them so much information”

What’s most perplexing to everyone is FEMA basically made the call last Thursday and offered up no details, no data for each municipality to dig into to try to correct any mistakes, and told everyone there is no appeals process. You get the sense that the municipalities believed their relationships with FEMA was going along smoothly, both sides were working together to resolve 50/50 and permitting issues, and then one day it wasn’t.

Hyatt said the town reached out to the FEMA office in Atlanta on Friday of last week and was told, “This is a final decision. We don’t need to answer any of your questions.” Hyatt said, “That’s not cool. All we are requesting is a reason for why we are not getting a discount. We want to know what made FEMA make this decision without any communication.”

Mayor Dan Allers said, “We’re owed an explanation.”

Here’s the timeline of communication between the Town of Fort Myers Beach and FEMA.

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. UNINCORPORATE! if I said once I say it a million times, the town leaders are incompetent and corrupt with nothing but personal agendas we have idiots running this town, you get what you vote for. If the County was in control this wouldn’t have happen, expect more from these fools.

  2. This is very is very disturbing. My condominium is the Creciente. The COA has been working hard to rebuild using the correct permits. Given supply and demand, and contractor issues, work cannot be done in a timely manner.

    How dare FEMA! It has not been able to get out of its own way in multiple areas in the United States. Maybe, it’s time to revisit the leadership of FEMA. Change is needed.

  3. oo much Power Tripping. Someone’s making up their own rules & has lost sight of the fact that the government’s sole purpose is to do what “We the People” cannot do for ourselves! Yes, it’s purpose is to Serve the People, not to pass down decrees!

  4. Perhaps FMB other municipalities lost the discount because they had a high percentage of unpermitted work, non adherence to the LDC, the FL Building code, ordinances and floodplain regulations. Rules are rules and when they are not met, penalties occur. Sucks but reality. Perhaps the municipalities failed their constituents. We know not the same rules apply to all in many cases. These towns just got caught. Like it or not.

    • so if the town failed and that needs to be proved.. then they should pay the fines.. not have residents who were in total compliance, who were prudent enough to carry Flood insurance and followed all the rules should be penalized..

      • Agreed. You’ll see, FMB leadership failed its residents. Proof will be public soon. The problem is, the town does not hold all to the same standards. And now it’s biting them right in the ass…and the homeowners have to pay for their quid pro quo antics.

      • The staff goes through a training process and is aware of what is required. Release the training that was provided by FEMA. Folks on my street zero permits. The staff has failed education to residents and issuing code citations. No stop work orders posted on these homes. I would sell in minute if values went back up. Just to get away from the politics on this island. Not even going to mention the staff turnover, the water we are drinking and continue to flood from lack of repairs needed to streets.

  5. Where is DeSantis on this? What kind of governor lets this happen and does not say a word? Where are Scott and Rubio? Why do we elect people that don’t do their jobs? Time to clean house!!!!!

  6. FEMA is an administrative agency and any of its final decisions can be appealed. Our FMB town attorney should be aware of this and be prepared to take action quickly. There are time limits to appeal.

  7. Why would anybody be surprised at the federal government’s reversal of policy. They are in the business of incentivizing behavior. Once that behavior is achieved they remove the incentive.

  8. Is there a phone number or email address to reach out to someone to voice frustrations or to try to get some additional answers?

  9. I do not own property on FMB but have been a frequent visitor the past 20 years. I’ve had my share of dealings with FEMA after a house I owned on a golf course in Indiana was placed into a “high risk” A flood zone after flood maps were redrawn! When I finally got through to FEMA I was told that “someone needed to pay for Hurricane Katrina….are you kidding me?!! Our HOA fought over 5 years to get properties removed as we were not even close to a body of water. It took hiring our own hydrologist, engineer, surveyor and lawyer before it was determined that the readings FEMA took were off by 4 feet!!! Good luck but I’m afraid you are up the proverbial shit creek without a paddle.

  10. Do the 105 on the list know they were on the list? Was the analysis of the addresses presented at yesterday’s meeting done back in December when the list was received or just completed since the phone call last Thursday? If it was done in December, was it sent to FEMA?

  11. Such ignorance.

    FEMA/NFIP evaluates and changes CRS ratings as a matter of course, regardless of who is in the White House.

    FEMA/disaster assistance also falls short after catastrophes, regardless of who is in the White House.

  12. Welcome to an administrative STATE (No checks and balances this country was built on). The administrate agencies (FEMA, NOAA, etc.) run unchecked. Administrative agencies have executive, quasi-legislative, and quasi-judicial functions. They can enforce laws and regulations, create new regulations through the rulemaking process, and conduct adjudicatory proceedings involving violations of laws or regulations. These are the law makers, judges and juries that no on voted for!!! The unchecked power of the administrative state presents a serious threat to liberty, democracy, and republican government. Just my opinion!!!

  13. Bottom line it’s all about the money. Their budget just went up 25%, they gave two token municipalities the discount. No appeal, no explanations, sounds fishy. So, theoretically going forward these cities don’t need to follow FEMA building rules? So much for the town doing the right thing.

    • “A few token municipalities”??

      Florida has 244 participating communities with NFIP/CRS ratings, which covers 1.2 million policies with premiums of $807.9 million.

  14. It’s a tough situation. I didn’t expect much further assistance after seeing FEMA not being able to complete their obligations to SWFL. Most residents are still struggling. “FMB Strong” mentality needs to continue. We are on our own. However, I am grateful for what assistance we did get from FEMA. The Feds are done with us. They looked for any reason whether valid or not. It’s up to the State of Florida and residents to lobby this challenge. FEMA’s bank account is empty for US.

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