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Whidden’s non-conforming structures discussed at Historic Preservation Board meeting

November 10, 2022
By Sheila Evans

Boca Grande’s Historic Preservation Board made a point during its November 9 meeting that permits are still required for any changes, demolition or construction necessary as a result of Hurricane Ian. Rules have not been suspended because of the storm, although some accommodations are being made to allow repairs as quickly as possible.

If the property needing repair or reconstruction is in Boca Grande’s historic district, it must also conform to the historic preservation rules, and it may need to come before the local board for approval. 

Peter Blackwell, a planner with the Lee County Planning and Zoning office, noted that the Lee County Historic Preservation Board will be meeting Thursday, Nov. 17, at 1 p.m. at the Administration East Building, Room 118, 2201 Second Street, Fort Myers. Historic reconstruction rules and permitting throughout the county will be the major discussion point, he said.

At the BGHPB meeting, member Bill Caldwell offered a suggestion that the County Board make an accommodation for structures designated as “nonconforming,” allowing them to change roofing materials as part of disaster reconstruction. 

“Nonconforming” buildings are those that are within the Historic Preservation District but not of a historic nature.

The BGHPB unanimously agreed to support this accommodation, and Blackwell said he would convey that request to the County Board at the Nov. 17 meeting.

Maintaining the rules of the Historic Preservation District also was discussed in relation to a request Larry Hannah brought to the Board as a representative of the Boca Grande Disaster Relief Fund. Hannah said the Fund had received an application for funds to cover restoration work at Whidden’s Marina. He wanted to be sure that any grant issued would also be supporting local historic preservation rules. 

As part of that discussion, member Becky Paterson noted that several years ago the Board participated in developing a major historic preservation plan for Whiddens. She said she hoped that plan would be used as a guideline for any restoration efforts, and that a copy of the plan would be posted on the County’s website. Blackwell said he would ensure that those involved in permit issuance would be made aware of the plan and use it as a guide.

Paterson said that having the plan could be useful in obtaining federal and other grants for restoration.

Caldwell also noted that a historic boathouse near Miller’s Marina was destroyed by the storm. He is hopeful it will be rebuilt, and that the Board will have an opportunity to review the plans so that this part of the area’s history will not be lost.

In addition to hurricane-related issues, the Board approved two projects. One is the addition of a pergola and “arbor gates” at the Hermann residence, 260 East Railroad Ave. The other is a perimeter wall added to the Fortgang residence, 1741 17th St. The Board’s approval approvals of both projects was unanimous.