Fort Myers Beach, FL

Is enough being done to help rebuild Ft. Myers, Florida in keeping with its original character? (Opinion)

Steffany Ritchie
Outrigger Resort in Fort Myers before Hurrican IanPhoto bySteffany Ritchie

Six months on from the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Florida, rebuilding the beach town of Ft. Myers remains a slow work in progress. For some businesses however, re-opening is sadly not going to happen.

The popular Outrigger Resort announced that the property has been sold in March, after initial plans to re-build. It is one of several recent such sales to developers. Like many of the beach's hotels and business, the property sustained serious damage in the hurricane. And sadly, it is unlikely to be replaced by anything with the same "old Florida" charm.

Ft. Myers is popular with Floridians on vacation as well as tourists from afar. It was one of the last relatively affordable beach areas left in the state.

There are land ordinances which prevent any building over four stories being built, something it is natural to speculate that new developers spending large amounts of money could seek to circumvent.

There is a building code on Fort Myers Beach. It’s been in place for years, but after Hurricane Ian, some islanders say they’re concerned the code will change.
“We do have a land development code review process underway and also the local planning agency. That local planning agency is also impacting how the town is rebuilding, but I need people to understand that we are adhering to the codes that were in place before the hurricane,” said Jenny Dexter with the Town of Fort Myers Beach.*

It doesn't help when newspapers like the New York Times publish anti-rebuilding pieces under the guise of concern for climate change:

There are many people who need help in Ian’s aftermath, and the first order of business must be ensuring they get that assistance. But a national conversation is long overdue about the dollars we invest in rebuilding coastal resort communities and what we should expect in return. At the moment, taxpayers are getting little back from these investments.**

Imagine if such a thing were written about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But because it's Florida, everyone shrugs. The writer also fails to mention that millions of Americans and international tourists choose Florida as their premier holiday destination every year.

Yes, better measures need to be put in place for hurricane mitigation. But it's preposterous to suggest that people are not going to build on or visit beaches.

Ft. Myers is a town where people from all walks of life work and live, not just a vacation spot, and the locals deserve to have it rebuilt in a manner in keeping with how it was before the hurricane. The well heeled residents and tourists already have nearby Sanibel Island.

But with large developers like Margaritaville and others scooping up property, this could already be a lost cause. It would be a shame to lose the character of the local community and economy to the greed of developers and short sited planners. Without serious intervention and community minded planning, Ft. Myers will be a very different town before long.

*Residents Fighting Back Against Major Change on Ft. Myers - NBC2

**To Save America’s Coasts, Don’t Always Rebuild Them - The New York Times

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Steffany Ritchie writes about local news, travel, and cultural human interests.

Bradenton, FL

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