Hurricane recovery begins for condo owners

Cayman Cay damage
An upper floor unit sustained damage to the roof, resulting in an unintended view of the sky along with debris and black mold that will have to be removed before reconstruction can begin. – Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Four months since Hurricane Irma passed by, the owners at Cayman Cay are finally able to start repairs on 10 damaged units.

When the hurricane passed through Holmes Beach, it left properties in the city largely unscathed, except for the 10-unit south building of the Cayman Cay condominium complex on Gulf Drive. The roof of the building was damaged, leading to water damage and black mold in the units. With contractors and the city’s building department cooperating, property owners can now begin the process of cleanup and rebuild.

Property owner and association Vice President Thomas Knarr said he’s relieved that the owners, including himself, are finally able to move forward.

In the months since the hurricane in September, the building has been empty, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue for owners who rent their units and the displacement of one permanent resident and several part-time residents. Despite the release of permits from the city, Knarr said he fears the units won’t be ready for occupancy until late 2018 or early 2019.

The reason for the delay comes down to communication breakdowns among the Holmes Beach Building Department, contractors with AccuTech and the property owners.

“We’ve been fighting this for months,” Knarr said of the communication breakdowns. “There’s no way in heck we would have let that building sit there if we could’ve done something.”

In the aftermath of Irma, Building Official Jim McGuinness said the city released many emergency permits to help property owners recover after the storm. One of those permits was for cleanup at Cayman Cay. The emergency permit, issued Sept. 21, 2017, allowed for debris to be removed from the structure and the erection of a temporary roof structure. While the temporary roof structure was installed and the undamaged personal belongings of owners removed, no other work was done.

Knarr said the association decided against spending thousands of dollars to take out sheet rock, the roof structure and other damaged elements before a determination was made regarding how the FEMA 50 percent rule applied to the building.

The FEMA 50 percent rule governs whether a building should be repaired or torn down, depending on the cost of the project compared to the value of the property. If 50 percent or more of the market value of a building is slated for reconstruction, the property owner must elevate the new construction for protection from floods. McGuinness said that as the building official, he’s the only one in the city who can make a determination on the rule.

According to the building department’s file on the complex, the determination was made in favor of repair and rebuilding after a 2014 appraisal was received on Dec. 7. The cost to rehabilitate the building is estimated at $506,139, McGuinness said, versus an appraised value of $1,308,273. Though Knarr said the property owners’ contractors had been in contact with the building department in an attempt to obtain a determination on the 50 percent rule and move forward with building repairs, McGuinness said he was unaware of the situation prior to January, when Knarr contacted Mayor Bob Johnson.

“Our goal now is to help these people recover,” McGuinness said. He expected to issue the permits to rebuild the roof structure and basic interior structure of the building early the week of Jan. 8. It will be up to each owner to obtain permits for additional work in their units, such as the installation of new kitchen and bathroom facilities.

With permits in progress and communication issues resolved, Knarr said he’s hopeful there won’t be any more hang-ups on the road to recovery at Cayman Cay.

“We just want to move forward,” he said.