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PERMIT PROBLEM: Downtown Fort Myers historic building repainted without approval

Historic buildings need permission from the Historical Preservation Commission
Posted at 11:05 PM, Apr 22, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A stop-work order has been issued in downtown Fort Myers after a historic building, known as the Richards Building on Hendry Street, was painted without authorization starting on April 19.

The Richards Building has stood in Fort Myers for over a century. According to local regulations, buildings typically do not need permits for repainting.

However, those located within the historic district do require approval from the Historical Preservation Commission.

Gina Sabiston, Vice President of the Lee Trust for Historic Preservation, noticed the unauthorized work.

"I called city hall immediately and notified them that there was painting happening without a permit," Sabiston said. "They went over immediately and issued a stop work order."

Despite the order, the painting continued throughout the weekend, leading to confused reactions from the community, even from those who rent space in the building.

"The buildings downtown are tropical colors, or they're orangish, tannish, or brownish. Black and white just doesn't fit," said Jim Hargrove, a tenant of the Richards Building.

The new paint job now faces the possibility of being removed, depending on the decision of the Historic Preservation Committee scheduled for May 23.

Sabiston noted that in cases like these, property owners often claim ignorance of the district's historic status.

However, she pointed out that this was not the case for the owners of the Richards Building, who had previously engaged with the commission concerning changes to the windows of the property.

The owners' attorney is also a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, which was confirmed by a commission chairperson.

"These buildings don't just belong to the property owners, they belong to the entire community," Sabiston added.

Efforts to reach Alessio Holdings, the owners of the property, and their attorney for comment have so far been unsuccessful as of Monday night.