TO: Local Planning Agency

FROM: Bill Spikowski

DATE: November 26, 1996

SUBJECT: Initial Approach on Accessory Apartments


On November 19th we finished formulating our initial approach to addressing the large number of "mother-in-law" or accessory apartments at Fort Myers Beach. This memorandum articulates the major elements of that approach, which will be developed into proposed policies for your comprehensive plan.

(1) We will request the following code enforcement actions in response to complaints about illegal apartments:

(2) We will not take any steps to legalize any ground-level apartments that were built after 1984 in violation of Lee County's floodplain regulations, because to do so would endanger flood insurance coverage for other Fort Myers Beach property owners. We will also avoid legalizing any violations of fire or life safety codes that may exist. But for otherwise-acceptable construction that may have been completed without building permits, owners may receive permits to upgrade the construction to comply with these codes.

(3) Apartments built before 1984 will be eligible for more lenient treatment because they pre-dated both the floodplain regulations and the density restrictions of the 1984 Lee Plan. These older apartments will not receive any kind of blanket amnesty, for a variety of reasons including multiple apartments on a single-family lot, or being built too near property lines, or with too much lot coverage. But apartments meeting reasonable standards (to be established) may become eligible for a voluntary registration process that may include:

(4) Certain subdivisions, particularly older ones that already have a variety of housing types, will be considered for a new form of regulations that would be based on "compatible building types" rather than the standard single-use zoning districts (typically restricted to conventional single-family homes only). These regulations would include simple design standards to ensure against structures that are incompatible with the neighborhood character. But they might allow accessory apartments, limited types of "home occupations," or other uses on a more lenient basis than allowed by the current zoning. Such proposals would be developed in cooperation with existing residents and property owners beginning in January of 1997.

(5) By April 15, 1997, the LPA would recommend to the Town Council whether pending code enforcement cases should proceed to the Hearing Examiner or be further delayed while these proposals are being implemented.