To the editor:
This letter is in regard to the Pupi Garden Nursery on Homestead Road and the county's assertion that a pole barn building or "pavilion structure" was built without being permitted and must be razed. The article appeared in the Citizen on May 15 and it was reported that the owner, Spanish speaking, Wifredo Garcia says "he feels discriminated" according to his interpreter.
I am a retired city planner with 28 years' experience in the building and construction code industry and I can assure Mr. Garcia that the county will require that the structure be torn down. Not simply because a permit wasn't applied for or issued but, because the structure wasn't constructed in accordance with the local and national building codes.
We live in hurricane country where these types of structures are considered "kites" which must be constructed to withstand wind loads of 160 miles an hour without compromising the structural integrity of the building. The wind uplift in these types of open building without exterior walls validates their nickname as a kite.
I visited the nursery a few weeks before the article appeared in the paper because I saw the pavilion from the street and wanted to take a closer look at it because I want to build a similar structure for a friend to house a boat. Old habits die hard.
My inspection of the structure revealed that the rafters over the 16-foot free span of a 32- foot building were constructed with 2x4s on 24-inch centers, a code violation in any state; unless the roof system was built with a pre-engineered and designed truss system. Additionally, no hurricane clips where the rafters met the outside beam of the pavilion were installed and no straps were placed over the rafter and under the plywood sheathing and fastened to the beam as the code requires.
I suspect Garcia has at least $5,000.00 invested in material, much of which will be lost in dismantling the building because shingles can't be reused and the rafters will have to be replaced with a truss system or larger than 2 by 4 inch lumber components.
I really feel bad for Garcia's' situation but, he isn't the subject of the county's selective, discriminatory or overzealous enforcement of the codes. They (building codes) are necessary to protect people and property in storm events.
Paying for the mistake is far from over for Mr. Garcia. Doing nothing will result in fines and condemnation proceedings will begin pursuant to county's procedures for eliminating substandard buildings and bad construction practices. He'll endure the costs of disassembling the structure and will have to employ a structural engineer or architect to draw and stamp a plan and specifications for the simplest structure known to man at a cost of at least $2,500.00 to rebuild a $5,000.00 building. That's the quote I got from a local engineering firm after I talked to the lady in the planning department at the county when inquiring about my friend Bob's boat shed. Our building would be half the size of Garcia's structure.
No earth moved, no material purchases, no contractor employed, $2,500 to the engineer before anything happens. The department of "NO" at the county does this to protect themselves from liability resulting from their professional inability to prepare or assist an owner or contractor in the preparation of plans and specifications for the world's simplest building.
The department of "NO" does have canned plans for sheds and will give you, GIVE YOU, engineered, signed and stamped plans that you are permitted to use for the construction of a more intricate structure for building a garden shed that has more hurricane wind load structural components than Garcia's pavilion.
The county could easily provide a similar "canned" drawing for the Garcia structure and many more that will follow that will come without the county's expensive deterrent from building attractive buildings with tangible tax values, rather than erecting those ugly cheap looking and cheap to buy tin carport structures.
If Garcia wants help, he should have the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Corp. lobby the commissioners to create a canned plan for his type of building. A huge part of the "cost to build" will evaporate and the county could then tax the hell out of it. Good luck Wifredo!
Bob and I decided to order one of those ugly tin buildings that come with a stamped engineer's plan that only costs two thousand bucks, installed. The county will give us a rubber stamp approval as they have for hundreds of other that have been erected in Lehigh. The department of "NO" said "come back in two weeks "to pick up the permit!" Nonsense.