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UPDATE: Historic Richards Building had previous violations for unapproved work

Posted at 10:45 PM, Apr 24, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The historic Richards Building on Hendry Street, which was recently painted over the weekend despite a stop-work order, has been found to have multiple other violations.

According to information provided to your Community Correspondent Anvar Ruziev following a request to the city, in January, the building's owners were cited for unpermitted renovation work on the second, third, and fourth floors. Plumbing, electrical, and air conditioning systems all require permits. On Friday, the city issued another violation notice for an illegally installed sign, alongside the unauthorized painting.

Matt Plechan, president of Mineral Stains, who supplied the paint stain, was present when the stop-work order was delivered.

“3:30, 4 o'clock, what was it, Friday? The lady comes with like two sheriff's or something, and I'm like, I don't even know what's happening, you guys are missing this permit,” Plechan recounted.

Despite being told to stop working, the painting continued. Plechan mentioned that while the paint stain could technically be removed by bringing the brick to a very acidic state, the estimated cost would be around $20,000.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson expressed his surprise when discovering the building, which is visible directly from his office.

"I was shocked, I was disappointed, and to find out that there had been a stop-work order I was doubly disappointed," Anderson said.

The mayor indicated that while it might not be possible to undo the painting, the city is prepared to hold the owners accountable with potential fines or penalties. He says city staff is looking into whether this was an oversight or deliberate action.

The ongoing issues have raised concerns among business owners within the building, telling Fox 4 they are fearful their operations could be affected if the city takes actions against the landlords.

The review of the unauthorized changes is set to be discussed at the next Historic Preservation Commission meeting on May 23. Efforts to reach the owners of the property and their attorney for comment have so far been unsuccessful.