FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach is coming up with another way to give employees a place to call home. Five months after Hurricane Ian, the resort is asking the Town of Fort Myers Beach to allow live aboards.
This means someone can live or stay on a boat for more than five days.
The general manager of the resort says this idea could help all of Estero Island.
"With the limited housing, it's vital," said Bill Waichulis. "Everybody is just stressed on what is available."
He says the boats would be another option besides the condo units on the island. Waichulis says when he started at the resort about 17 years ago, there were many employees living on the island. Today, he can barely count one or two.
"The commute would be fantastic," Waichulis said.
They have 41 boat slips, which could be used for guests or employees. The town currently only allows live aboards for four days, which is why Waichulis has already gone to council members with his proposal.
"We’ll obviously start hiring and some of those will probably need the possibility of living on a boat," he explained. "We could make it available to the other businesses for their employees."
Workforce housing is not a new idea to Waichulis. They had two workforce cottages next to the resort. About 14 people lived there, but Hurricane Ian destroyed the cottages.
They want to rebuild them, but now have to do it up to FEMA's flood code.
"We had international employees that were living in there that were here on Visas," Waichulis said.
The cottages can only house 14 people, but Waichulis eventually wants to go to council members to ask for more, adding density to the area.
The idea of liveaboards is coming closer to reality. The proposed ordinance will have one more public hearing on March 6 at 9 a.m. That same day, council members will take a final vote on the ordinance.
"Some of them [employees] I think are looking into what it would be to buy a boat now," Waichulis said.