If the government shutdown continues any longer, it will prevent seawalls from being built on canal properties, preventing houses from getting built on them, potentially devastating an industry in Cape Coral that seemed primed for a recovery, officials said Thursday.
The Cape Coral Construction Industry Association called a press conference Thursday afternoon to let everyone know that because of the shutdown, the permitting process for sea walls has stopped. Without a permit, there cannot be a seawall, and therefore no home.
David Mulicka of Honc Marine Construction said this could grind his company's momentum to a halt after it seemed they had turned the corner.
"Internally, we have 65 employees that we just hired back and just started reinvesting in equipment this year," Mulicka said. "Everyone wants our work to begin growing Cape Coral again and now, we're not allowed to do it."
Tori Gansen a CCCIA member for Honc Marine and Construction, said that for any canal home, they need federal approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for any work done in the water regarding seawalls.
Last week, Cape Coral's program, SAJ-91, was suspended by the government because the ACE is federal.
"We still has another avenue to get permits by applying to the Florida DEP, a state governing body, to issue permits with special circumstances on behalf of the ACE," Gansen said. "Wednesday, the programmatic permits were suspended, meaning no more permits on behalf of ACE."
Translation: No permits for any seawalls. All Honc can do is out-of-water maintenance work (about 25 percent of its business), which could mean the jobs of Honc's 56 workers could be in jeopardy.
That's not to mention those construction companies which build the houses, and may now lose much of its business in a city where canals are a way of life.
"If you can't get your seawall built, you can't build your house," Gansen said. "We're feeling an uptick, so we're putting a halt in all that work."
Mulicka said the government has been so headstrong, it's even refusing to take volunteer work to get the permits out, or anything.
"I want people to know the federal government is refusing free help from the state while they're closed," Mulicka said. "It has nothing to do with price or budget. It's strictly political because nobody would refuse free volunteers if they weren't trying to politicize it."
This will also have an impact on real estate and the ability to buy and sell land, according to Zack Veis, marketing director at Elysium Construction, which builds and sells high-end homes.
"From a real-estate side of it, we show people property and it might be your dream location, but there's no sea wall. The bad news, we can't sell you a house here," Veis said. "Then they're headed for Fort Myers, Naples, anywhere else."
The SAJ-91 process has faced adversity recently. Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permitting extension that would have allowed the city to continue to issue building permits in areas sensitive to the endangered smalltooth sawfish.
In March, a new order was released by ACE which did not give the city the same blanket permitting authority it previously carried, but it allowed the Cape to issue permits providing it followed a 10-day period that allowed for input from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"We were already feeling the pinch of that even before the shutdown," Veis said.