To the editor:
I am a full time resident and property owner on Matlacha.
As you know there is a proposal before the commission to institute a Matlacha Residential Overlay that will restrict the use of our properties. Though some of the proposed restrictions are probably OK, there are several that are vehemently opposed to by most of the residents. Matlacha is a unique community that is attractive to some extent because of its lack of regulation. For example there is no restriction on parking boats, trailers and trucks in your yard. There is a "hodge-podge" of different types of architecture and landscaping and a mixture of mobile homes and cobbled together bungalows. This might sound unappealing to some but for most who own property on the island, this is one of the primary reasons we bought here lack of regulation and its unique "island feel."
The most onerous of the proposed provisions, at least from the residents perspective are:
n The limiting of the ability to ask for variance. This is like prohibiting due process. A filing for variance is never a foregone conclusion. When a variance is requested it is reviewed by planning, publicized, commented on by the neighbors affected and then voted on. There are always unforeseen circumstances that may require the filing for variance to make a property viable for use. I do not think this should be limited in anyway. It is probably illegal to do so and would possibly subject the county to law suits.
n The rule that imposes "Substantially Improved Construction" on existing homes. When I built my home I had to adhere to all of the rules and regulations that were in effect at the time (2005). I was inspected by the Lee County Building Department and received a certificate of occupancy saying that I had complied with these regulations and rules. If, for example, we were to have a devastating hurricane and my home was damaged beyond 50 percent of its value, I would have to comply with the proposed rules, not the rules in effect when I decided to spend over $300,000 to build on my property. In my case I would have to reduce the height of my home, the side setbacks and the lot coverage. This would mean that I would have to bulldoze my home and start over again. I would lose whatever value was not damaged by the storm, I would lose several hundred square feet of living space and many months of the use of my home. Also this would not be covered by any insurance. It would be out of my pocket. This is not fair! I played by the rules and now I am going to be penalized for that. This provision needs to go! Incidentally, when I built my home, I needed a variance in setback, which was applied for, considered and granted. If these "NIMBY's" objected, that was the time to do it, not after the fact. If the "Substantially Improved Construction" were limited to building code improvements it would, in my opinion be acceptable. Bringing a home up to the latest code can be expensive but probably makes sense from a life safety stand point. But changing the rules as far as what can be built is patently unfair.
n The other restrictions such as building height, lot coverage and setbacks will severely limit the usability of most lots. Matlacha, when originally developed, provided very small building lots. Imposing these restrictions will force most lot owners to go to two stories to gain an adequate amount of square footage of living space or will cause people to look elsewhere for property. I believe this runs counter to what the proposers have in mind.
These proposed rules, though probably meant as an improvement, are potentially devastating to the property owners on Matlacha. They will immediately cause a decline in property values due to lack of usability or fear of the consequences of the "Substantially Improved Construction" provision on a property they might be purchasing. They will potentially cause huge financial consequences if an owner experiences a natural disaster, or fire causing severe damage. I believe the proposed rules are self serving to the proposers and if carefully explained to other property owners, they would be vehemently opposed by the majority.
Lastly, I have read the MRO proposed and though I have over 30 years of experience in the construction industry, I did not, on first reading, see the devastating effects of what is proposed. It took several readings, consulting with a local civil engineer and discussion with others to at least partially understand what is involved. I earnestly urge that the proposal be thoroughly and publicly discussed so that both sides can fully understand what might become law. One of the property owners that is behind this proposal is in a similar position to me. They would have to reduce their home dimensions substantially if they were destroyed beyond 50 percent of the value of their home. This demonstrates to me that they don't really understand what they are asking for.
Thank you for your time taken reading this note and carefully considering this proposal.