Beachside towns waive permit fees for storm recovery

In a gesture of goodwill, authorities in most beachside towns and in the county have waived fees on building permits needed to repair ripped-off roofs, torn-down fences, demolished siding and aluminum work, and other structures trashed by Hurricane Irma and the accompanying tornadoes.

The window to apply for these permits for storm repairs closes on Dec. 31, unless extended.

The latest to approve a waiver was Melbourne Beach on Sept. 27. “We should not penalize someone” who needs storm-related repairs, Commissioner Steve Walters said.

Indialantic approved its waiver on Sept. 13. Chris Chinault, town manager, said the waiver does not cover everything. The Beach House Motel on AIA lost its roof among other damages and it looks like the owner will demolish the building.

“The motel has many complexities surrounding it, such as the extent of the damage that it could not be repaired but would have to be rebuilt to current state requirements. It is possible that there will be some permit fee relief,” Chinault said

Hurricane Irma damage repairs under the threshold for demolition and replacement are waiver eligible, but at the sole discretion of the building official. Chinault dismissed the notion the town may take a revenue hit over the storm-related waiver.

“Don’t know that the town loses any money since the work wouldn’t need a permit had the storm not descended,” he said.

Satellite Beach had considered announcing that it was officially waiving all hurricane-related repairs, but decided to handle the permitting issue on a case-by-case basis, said City Manager Courtney Barker.

“We waived the fence permits because we knew we would have a lot of fences blown down but we didn’t really have a lot of residential damage at all. Our damage was mostly to commercial buildings,” Barker said.

City officials also went one step further by tasking city fire fighters on their downtime to install emergency fencing to secure a total of 58 homes with pools exposed presenting a safety issue.

In terms of private property damages from Hurricane Irma in Indian Harbour Beach, the city building official’s “windshield survey” indicated 313 affected properties and eight minor, said Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan.

Unless directed otherwise, Indian Harbour Beach has also waived repair permit fees associated with storm damage from Hurricane Irma through Dec. 31. As part of the measures supporting projects helping residents to get back to normal in the neighborhoods, damaged fences in Indian Harbour Beach can be replaced in the same footprint without a permit, he said.

The permit fees may be waived but that doesn’t mean the repairs can be done by anyone in a haphazard manner, Ryan said.

“It is important that when a permit is required that you still apply for a no-fee permit as this will insure that the contractors are checked out for proper license and insurance,’’ he added.

As for overall big-ticket damage from Hurricane Irma, Satellite Beach lost its $250,000 air-conditioning unit at its recreation complex, Barker said.

In Indian Harbour Beach, the city assessed  about $250,000 in damages to City Hall, Fire Station 56, Algonquin Sports Complex, and Millennium & Bicentennial Beach parks, Metz Field, and the municipal tennis courts.

The county commission approved a 90 day waiver on Sept. 19 for unincorporated sections like the South Beaches, South Patrick Shores and South Tropical Trail.

Eligible repairs include roof replacement, air conditioning equipment, screen/pool enclosures and destroyed mobile homes, among other elements.  The county enacted a similar permit fee waiver following storms in 2004. As of Sept. 15, damage assessment teams have identified 2,937 buildings within the unincorporated areas suffering some Irma-related damage, including mobile homes along A1A which may have experienced a tornado.

In all cases, town and county, a permit is still required before construction, however. And in Melbourne Beach at least, a waiver may be extended.

“We can look at this again by Dec. 31,” said Mayor Jim Simmons.

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