FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — If you have driven down Estero Boulevard this week, you probably have seen Rick Loughery camped out on his garage roof.
Loughery, his wife Amy, and his son all stayed on Fort Myers Beach during Hurricane Ian.
Not only do they have a story of horror and survival, but now they are fighting to rebuild their lives on the island. And part of that fight is over whether they can keep the garage they built to code in 2019.
This is coming after Fort Myers Beach determined the garage was built in connection to their home.
And with this determination, FEMA’s 50% rule applies to the garage as part of the home that Loughery lost in the storm.
Rick disagrees with their conclusion, saying the garage is a separate structure.
“They contain that it was a “lateral addition” and therefore has to be knocked down,” said Rick Loughery. “The garage was only built 4 years ago, and if you look at the back of it you can see the only thing attaching the two structures was actually flashing.”
Amy Loughery, Rick’s wife, said they added the flashing because rainwater was getting between the walls of the garage and the wall of their home. And that connection of flashing is causing the whole disagreement.
“It is an interpretation of the code, and the definition of what laterally attached means,” said Amy Loughery. “And that’s where our struggle is. And that’s what we are trying to get a definite answer on, how the flashing on the back of these two walls makes it laterally attached.”
But how did Rick end up on the roof? After a meeting the other day with Fort Myers Beach permitting office and Loughery’s contractors, they left agreeing to disagree and no answers.
“So here I am up here, trying to figure out why I got 2 people saying that something can't stay, and I got 15 or 20 other people, who are highly professional engineers, architects, and saying that it can. So, I am trying to find out the truth.”
While Rick has a vesting interest in this disagreement, he says he isn’t the only one getting pushback on Fort Myers Beach.
“We had a couple of business owners here yesterday, they are frustrated because what the town keeps putting them through, you need this, you need this, even though their architects and engineers never said it,” said Rick Loughery. “We have qualified people giving you drawings and plans, but yet for some reason, the people with the town think they are more qualified and reject those plans and make them do something different."
And Rick says he doesn’t have time to take this disagreement to court, because he doesn’t have time to wait 5 years. He wants out of his RV and back into a home.
“I’d be building by home right now,” said Rick Loughery.
Fox 4 reached out to Fort Myers Beach about Loughery’s options. They gave them the three choices listed below.
- A new single-family home can be built with a garage connected to the new home. The home's rebuilding must be built to current regulations, and the surviving garage portion must also be brought up to current standards (Coastal A Zone, FBC 8th Ed).
- Convert the surviving garage into a stand-alone accessory structure (storage and parking only) and build a new detached single-family home. The home would be treated as new construction, and the garage must be brought up to current accessory structure standards (Coastal A Zone, FBC 8th Ed, flood ordinance) and must meet local zoning regulations as well.
- Demolish the surviving garage and rebuild a new home with a new garage as new construction, meeting current regulations.
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers said " I certainly sympathize with the struggles this situation has caused the Loughery’s. They have always been and continue to be great stewards of our community. I’m currently working with staff to see if there is anything we can do and still stay in compliance with State and Federal regulations".
Fort Myers Beach’s Communication Coordinator Jennifer Dexter says this situation could impact the entire town. She provided Fox 4 with this statement:
The Town must follow floodplain regulations and building codes that govern construction throughout the State of Florida.
Since the Town has agreed to be a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program, which reduces flood insurance costs for residents and impacts mortgages, following the rules of the program is critical to maintaining the Town’s good standing. Maintaining the Town’s good standing also impacts post-disaster FEMA funding.