The bottom level of our building was severely damaged by the hurricane. Can ground level areas be rebuilt?

There are a variety of requirements (federal, state, local) that need to be followed regarding rebuilding, and different properties have different situations in terms of how the construction came to be. This means that the answer to that question is “it depends on the situation.”

The 50% rule applies first to any improved or damaged primary building, regardless of the use or occupancy. The cost to repair the entire building to its pre-damaged condition is compared to 50% of the calculated market value of the entire structure prior to sustaining damage. 

Step 1:


The first question that must be answered is whether the building has been “substantially damaged,” meaning that the cost to repair the entire structure to its pre-damaged state will exceed 50% of the building’s pre-damaged market value (aka the 50% rule).


You must first determine the total repair costs to return the building to its pre-damaged condition. This is usually done by obtaining bids from one or more general, building, or residential contractors. Compare the total cost of these estimates to 50% of the pre-damaged building market value. If the total cost (labor and materials) to repair the building to its pre-damaged condition is less than 50% of the market value of the pre-damaged structure (the entire building), you can generally repair the existing construction in place under the stipulations provided in the Town’s Post-Disaster Buildback Ordinance without having to bring the entire building up to the currently enforced building codes and floodplain management regulations. However, see more information below in step 2, and note that it must have been a code-compliant and permitted installation in your flood zone originally.


However, buildings that are substantially damaged (over 50% of the pre-damaged building market value) need to meet the current floodplain management regulations. There are many floodplain regulations but the most notable is that new buildings, or substantially damaged or improved buildings (over 50% of their pre-damaged building value), must have their lowest-floor elevation raised to at least the base flood elevation shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) plus one additional foot of freeboard (BFE + 1’).  

For more information, see also the 50% Rule FAQ page:


Step 2:


If the building’s repair costs do not exceed the 50% threshold, the second consideration is whether the existing construction (e.g. a living area built below the current flood protection level of BFE + 1’ freeboard) was a legally built structure, and an approved use, and whether it was legally built prior to the jurisdiction’s adoption of the flood insurance rate maps (“pre-FIRM) and regulations in 1984. 


For the property to be rebuilt the same as it was prior to Hurricane Ian, the property owner must provide documentation that shows that it was legally built and there are various other stipulations outlined in the Town’s “Post Disaster Build Back Ordinance:”


In the Town’s Comprehensive Plan (Policy 4-D-1), it states, “The Land Development Code may also establish procedures to document actual uses, densities, and intensities, and compliance with regulations in effect at the time of construction, through such means as photographs, diagrams, plans, affidavits, permits, appraisals, tax records, etc.” 


Property owners who are making these decisions are welcome to reach out to the Town’s planning staff at Property owners should assemble as much documentation as they can which supports their assertion that their building is not “substantially damaged,” and that the construction was a legally existing pre-FIRM structure (a structure legally in place prior to the adoption of the Flood Insurance Rate Map). The planning staff are happy to look into the specific situation and provide a determination for the property owner.

Show All Answers

1. Am I in the jurisdiction of the Town of Fort Myers Beach if I have a Fort Myers Beach U.S. postal service address?
2. How long is my permit good for?
3. When is a permit required?
4. What happens if I choose not to obtain the required permits?
5. How do I submit my paperwork for a rebuild and obtain an issued permit?
6. Glass windows and doors--what is the requirement for replacement of windows and doors? Is there a requirement for a certain level of "hurricane" glass?
7. Where can I find the forms to submit a building permit application?
8. What is the current review period for building permits and how do I contact my reviewer?
9. PERMITS GENERAL (category)
10. How do I check the status of an existing building permit?
11. What are the requirements for a site plan?
12. Which permit do I get for a temporary power pole?
13. Where can I send my general building permit questions? (i.e. fence, remodel, single family home, etc.)
14. How do I extend my permit that is issued but about to expire?
15. Do I need a permit to Erect/ Replace a fence?
16. How much do permits cost?
17. How do I pay for my building permit?
18. How can I respond to a rejection letter that I received from one of the reviewers about my building permit application?
19. How can I submit my building permit application paperwork?
20. What happens if my permit expires?
21. What is a Notice of Commencement (NOC), do I need to file one, and how do file my NOC?
22. Should we get this far, what is the anticipated time frame for obtaining a building permit?
23. Are you currently issuing permits for repair of hurricane damaged homes, or will there be a delay before you begin to issue permits?
24. How close can a pool enclosure/pool be to a seawall?
25. Do I need a permit for a deck?
26. Do I need a permit for a Chickee hut?
27. Only drywall, baseboards, cabinets and finished flooring was damaged in our home. Do I need a building permit and repair/improvement cost form to repair these damages?
28. APPRAISALS (category)
29. Given that the appraisal is higher than the tax assessed value, will this trigger a requirement for a second appraisal?
30. Will an AVM "appraisal" be an accepted alternative appraisal method?
31. CONDOS (category)
32. What do I need if I live in a condo and want to replace my windows?
33. The bottom level of our building was severely damaged by the hurricane. Can ground level areas be rebuilt?
34. What is needed for minor Condo Renovations?
35. CODE (category)
36. How close can you get to a non-seawalled natural body of water (Rip Rap)?
37. What are the code requirements for construction in Fort Myers Beach?
38. What are the rules for swimming pool barriers in Florida and what are my responsibilities as a property owner?
39. CONTRACTORS (category)
40. Does the town have a list of registered contractors?
41. Do I need a contractor? What does it mean to be an "owner builder?"
42. Can you recommend an engineer/architect/contractor?
43. How does a contractor get registered with the Town of Fort Myers Beach?
44. DEMOLITION (category)
45. I’ve decided to demolish my building as it was substantially damaged. Will the city be removing my home?
46. How do I acquire a demolition permit?
47. I’ve decided to demolish my home. What is my next step?
48. ELEVATION (category)
49. Where do I find the elevation of my home?
50. Is it possible to elevate my existing building?
51. What is the “lowest floor” of a building and what is the elevation reference point which must be elevated above the minimum elevation?