FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The reality of building back stronger after Hurricane Ian, have some local leaders telling Fox 4 it doesn’t come cheap.
On Wednesday, down on Fort Myers Beach, people like Bart Churchward are working to rebuild his home.
“I definitely don't think there is an inexpensive way to do it,” said Churchward.
Fort Myers Beach council member Bill Veach echoed a similar message.
“It's not affordable for a lot of people,” said Veach.
On Wednesday, the proof for Veach could be seen across Fort Myers Beach, where areas that were once lined with older homes, are no longer standing.
“Now hurricane Ian has kind of, shaken the Etch a Sketch,” said Veach.
It's a blank page, to incentivize more affordable living with things such as expedited permitting for those types of projects.
“There is an opportunity to incentivize those people to build more mix use with some workforce housing, maybe some other housing in exchange for some things like setback density allowances, that kind of thing," said Veach.
Earlier in the week, these ideas were also being discussed at a Southwest Florida Climate Summit in Naples where resilient communities like Babcock Ranch were used as successful examples for rebuilding communities.
“So I think part of the challenge with existing infrastructure is its always more difficult than starting from scratch,” said Dr. Jennifer Languell.
Languell, who represented Babcock Ranch at the summit on Monday, said their resiliency comes from, in part, their self-sustaining solar energy fields and underground supply lines that weren’t damaged by hurricane winds.
“We never lost power, we never lost water, because you need the power to run the water plant,” said Dr. Languell.
While the price range for homes in Babcock Ranch which start in the upper $200,000 and top-out at over $4 million dollars doesn't scream affordability, is it the price people will have to pay to live on Florida's gulf coast?
“I don't think we are ever going to abandon the coast, I believe, however, we should build stronger and more durable in places that are vulnerable,” said Dr. Languell.
Vulnerable places, like Fort Myers Beach where people like Bart Churchward are curious about what the changing landscape of his home will eventually look like.
“Everybody is kind of projecting what it's going to be like when it's done and this is the neighborhood gossip like is it going to be the next Miami Beach?” asked Churchward.