The Beach is Gone. Are Residents in Danger?


It’s going to be at least a year before the multi-million dollar Fort Myers Beach renourishment project begins. That’s one full hurricane season and hundreds of daily high tide occurrences. Can the residents at Leonardo Arms wait that long?

These pictures of the Leonardo Arms condo building were taken this week. They were taken in the middle of the day while standing in the water nearly up to the seawall. According to town councilman Jim Atterholt the parking lot collapsed a few weeks ago. “The erosion is so severe. It’s as bad as anyone has ever seen it.”

The condo association has been trying to patch the problem up by filling in the area that collapsed while the town works through the process of getting permits, securing funding and getting easements from local residents to start what might turn out to be a $23 million renourishment of the entire beach.

We reached out to Coastal Engineer Hans Wilson to get his expert opinion on what’s going on here at Leonard Arms and, in light of what happened in Miami, are the residents of the building in any danger of this building collapsing.

Wilson tells Beach Talk Radio News, the reason Leonardo Arms residents are in this situation has everything to do with the builder. “If you looked at the shoreline and the “line of continuous construction” (purple line below) without Leonardo Arms in the picture you can see where the building extends way past that line. You can also see how about half of the building extends waterward of the 1978 Coastal Construction Setback Line (orange line). However I believe the building pre-dated the 1978 CCSL. So this is a classic example of the developer pushing the building too far towards the Gulf and now erosion has reached a critical level.”

With the concrete breaking from the erosion and the tide smashing into the structure, we asked Wilson to give us his thoughts on whether the residents in that building are in any danger. “It is unsafe if you are not paying attention trying to get to the beach and fall off the escarpment but they do have fencing and I presume some notices warning of the drop off. As for an emergency, well aesthetically yes. Functionally, no. The foundation of the building is not exposed. Yet. But they do need to take action.”

Wilson says he’s even worked with the Leonardo Arms association to try to fix the situation. “They unfortunately do not take the long view otherwise they would have put into place the shoreline structure for which a permit was issued in 2014 to protect the upland building. I think the current property manager is trying their best to rectify the situation but it always comes down to cost and whether there is a consensus within the association to pay for the improvements. It is always cheaper to be proactive with a situation than reactive. I’m hopeful the beach restoration plan will ameliorate the erosion they are experiencing.”

What makes the Leonardo Arms situation even more fascinating is that just a short walk away is the Island Winds condominium where the beach area is accreting. In that area the beach is nearly the size of three football fields and is growing at about 8 feet per year.

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