TREASURE ISLAND — City commissioners have enacted a temporary moratorium on collecting certain building permit fees due to damages caused by Hurricane Ian.

Community Development staff advised commissioners a moratorium until Nov. 17 is needed because businesspeople and residents need more time to assess damage to their property and report it to the city.

“Hurricane Ian created wind damage throughout the city between Sept. 27 through Sept. 29. Due to high winds from Hurricane Ian, commercial and residential structural repairs may be needed,” Community Development Director Kathy Gademer said.

After a preliminary inspection around the city, Community Development staff recommended temporarily waiving building permit fees for water and wind damage on specific types of construction and repair. 

Gademer told commissioners a Community Development Department damage assessment team conducted a survey and found residential and commercial structures with storm damage. Most repairs and replacements on structures require a building permit. 

She said waiving building permit fees “is in the best interest of the city … to help facilitate and expedite permit issuance and to help the property owners restore their property.” Permit fees will be waived until Nov. 17 to give building inspectors more time to document storm damage.

Gademer told commissioners an initial damage assessment survey taken from a city truck, and looking at only the front of buildings, reported minimal damage, mostly to fences, soffits, fascias and gutters.  “Those may require a permit to fix or repair.”

However, she added, “While our damage assessment team was only in their truck riding around and looking at the front of the building, there’s still the back of the buildings, the backyards and the waterfront yards, that we don’t know if there’s any damage. We would like sufficient time to waive building fees until Nov. 17 in case property owners would like to come by and talk to us about their storm damage, if there is any,” she added.

Commissioner John Doctor asked Gademer about the permit process for tree removal. She said if a tree is still standing in the ground, depending on the tree and the health of the tree, they may or may not have to obtain a permit. If a tree is on the ground, no permit is needed for removal.

Gademer said there are certain trees that are invasive, or certain trees that may be unhealthy and sick, and maybe a public safety hazard. An arborist can remove those trees, “but if it’s a healthy tree, and it’s a native tree, they do require a permit.” 

Mayor Payne asked if there has to be a determination by staff that damage was caused by Hurricane Ian or whether somebody installing a new fence could apply for a permit and have it waived, “even if it wasn’t damaged by the storm?”

Gademer said there needs to be “substantial evidence” it was damaged by the storm, and what will likely happen is a building official will go out and inspect the damage prior to the permit application.

Commissioner Saleene Partridge moved to temporarily waive building permit fees applied for construction and repair items such as wall repair and replacement, fence instillation, tree removal, instillation of soffits, fascias and gutters, roof repair and replacement, electrical for meter bases and power surges on appliances.

The motion to enact a building permit moratorium on certain building permit fees until Nov. 17 passed unanimously.