The aftermath of Hurricane Ian has been devastating for many, and now some are dealing with violations and small fines as they repair their homes.
WINK News investigative reporter Peter Fleischer visited a neighborhood where nearly 20 homes have been hit with Lee County code violations. Homeowners say they’re not trying to get away with illegal work; they’re just trying to get their lives back.
It’s hard to imagine what some houses were like in Island Park before Hurricane Ian, but the aftermath and how it affected his neighbors break Greg Wieg’s heart. “They were just different individuals. I heard people in the neighborhood saying, ‘I wish I had been one of the people that drowned,’” said Wieg.
Wieg and his wife have lived in the Island Park area for 17 years. Their house was hit during Ian, but the damage wasn’t catastrophic. Now, they’re buying their neighbor’s house. She was described as an elderly woman, and she didn’t have the strength or resources to rebuild.
“It was just utter devastation. These homes took on almost six feet of water,” Wieg said.
The house is now a skeleton. A church group helped the woman gut her home when they were volunteering in the weeks after Ian. The goal was to prevent further mold and rot damage.
Months later, the woman was hit with a Lee County code violation. She didn’t have a permit to remodel her house. “If the house is on fire, do you have to get a permit before you put the house fire out? Of course not,” said Wieg.
Records show this house is one of at least 18 that have been hit with code violations in the neighborhood, and 115 violations have been issued in the Island Park zip code, but community members argue it’s not like they’re adding a second floor or digging a lavish pool.
Jim Weiss has lived in the Island Park area for 25 years. Records show several homes on his street have been issued code violations since Ian.
“I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about insurance,” said Weiss.
Weiss worked on small projects around his home, trying to keep his house safe and clean while following county requirements. “You’ve got a group of people that don’t care too much about that. That’s not an important item. It’s dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s is more important.”
Even with a livable home, the process and the suffering of his neighbors have taken their toll. “This situation has changed me greatly. It’s very difficult to think about,” Weiss said.
As they recover and rebuild, Island Park asks for understanding.
“The county and the building department needs to reach out to these people and explain to them the process that needs to occur so they can achieve the end game,” said Wieg.
WINK News requested an interview with Lee County Code Enforcement, but they referred us to their website instead.
Lee County Code Enforcement is only responsible for unincorporated Lee County.
To contact Lee County Code Enforcement, residents can call 239-533-8895 or email complaints to [email protected]
To look up code enforcement violations, follow the directions below:
Go to the Lee County code enforcement database by clicking here.
Make sure the “Code Enforcement” tab is selected, and then “Search Applications.”
Fill out as much information as possible. There are options for specific types of violations, dates, addresses, etc.