It seems the Anna Maria City Pier was not the only structure on the island to suffer major damage from Hurricane Irma.
The 10 condos in the south building of the Cayman Cay Villas, 4307 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, damaged by the September 2017 storm are not habitable.
Irma ripped the roof off the two-story, 10-unit cinder-block building Sept. 10, 2017, and dumped thousands of gallons of water into the residential units.
“It has been four months since the hurricane, and it has become one big mold factory,” said condo owner Thomas Knarr.
His neighbor in the building, Michael Yandek, said his condo was to have been his retirement home. He rushed to Holmes Beach from Cleveland, Ohio, after the storm.
“We flew down there immediately to see what we could save, and it wasn’t much,” Yandek said. “As soon as I walked in our unit, I threw up from the mold.”
Exactly why the repairs haven’t been performed is a matter of contention. A second building in the condo complex was not extensively damaged by the storm.
Knarr blames the city for being slow to issue permits.
“It’s very frustrating because we’re not getting anywhere with anybody for anything,” Knarr said. “You can’t go in there without a mask. There’s black, black mold everywhere.”
The city paper trail tells a different story.
“They were given an emergency building permit in September to remove stuff that needed to be removed,” said Mayor Bob Johnson. “In December, they submitted a permit application for all work that needed to be done.”
Before Irma, the condos ranged in value between $235,000 and $340,000, according to Zillow.com.
A temporary roof is in place, but work on the recovery has been slowed by the failure to act on the September emergency permit, which allowed removal of the damages and mold, but left owners with uncertainty about what insurance policies are in effect.
Knarr said the city compounded the condo owners’ losses by refusing to address the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 50 percent rule.
FEMA’s assessment guidelines for structures within the flood zone, as detailed by the Flood Insurance Rate Map for homes built prior to Dec. 31, 1974, often called pre-FIRM — require a building be elevated and brought into code compliance if repair or remodeling costs exceed 50 percent of the structure’s value.
Knarr said all information requested by the city has been supplied, but planners keep moving the goal posts and asking for more.
“They have had the information required to make that FEMA determination for months,” Knarr said.
Building official James McGuinness said the condo owners have been let down by their contractor, Accutech Restoration of Sarasota, who has had permission to work on the condos for nearly four months.
“We issued an emergency permit to remove water-damaged materials Sept. 20,” McGuinness said. “The breakdown was not with this department.”
Fries did not return numerous calls for comment.
Senior plans examiner Joe Aukstikalnis has run point for the city on the project, Knarr said.
“Every time I talk to Joe (Aukstikalnis) in the building department, he reminds me they issued a temp permit to demolish the interior, which is stupid because the condo owners need to know whether the building must be torn down before making such a costly determination,” Knarr said.
He said demolishing and rebuilding the condos would be too costly. Elevating the cinderblock building isn’t cheap either.
The mayor said the city has always operated under the assumption it would not be economically feasible to elevate the building or tear it down and rebuild.
The city received the appraisal and FEMA paperwork from the condo association and started a plan review the second week of December, Johnson said.
“They’ve had the wherewithal to do the work and get rid of the bad things in the building,” Johnson said. “It took them until December to get a permit in to do repair work.”
The final hurdle is a mechanical plan for venting, air conditioning and heating, Johnson said.
“So there is an end in sight,” he said.
Any progress would be appreciated at this point, Knarr said, because the condos are rotting away.
“It is a very frustrating mess,” Knarr said.
Yandek said he will continue to push to repair the property and insurers to pay off on the various policies between the association and the owners.
“I love that place. That’s why I bought it,” Yandek said. “It’s our home away from home. But everything is ruined.”