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Regulation of ‘modular’ homes tendered

By Staff | Oct 16, 2015

Modular homes, which have been built in Cape Coral for 20 years, are coming under heavy scrutiny by a group which plans to state its opposition at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Councilmember Richard Leon scheduled an agenda item asking council for approval to add regulation of modular homes to council’s list of state legislative initiatives. Leon wants the state to give authority to local government to zone modular homes similar to mobile homes.

The opposition group, which held meetings and put out a flier against modular homes in the Cape, maintain that the lower cost and more energy efficient homes will bring down property values around them.

Those concerns are not fact-based, those in the industry say.

“Let’s go at that,” said Gold Key Homes of America owner/president Patrick Hutton. “They are not doing their homework. We’ve built 2,000 homes in the community and in the Cape for 21 years. When the economy tanked I went to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and found these modular homes going up everywhere.

“They far exceed the Dade County codes and the house on Kismet Parkway (located just east of Santa Barbara Boulevard) is wind rated at 180 mph. No other homes in the Cape are rated that high. The Florida building codes approved the permitting and construction regulations. Now the newest homes in the Cape are more than $200,000. What happened to affordable housing?” added Hutton.

“I don’t like the looks of it,” said neighbor Mike Kuhlmann. “I agree with the cause, but this is my last week renting here, so it won’t affect me after Friday.”

The home on Kismet causing the furor is 1,700 square feet and already sold for $215,000. Hutton scheduled an open house on Kismet on Nov. 1. Gold Key offers entry level homes from $120,000 to $175,000. Most homes run between 1,200 to 2,300 square feet under air.

“I did some research and I found the builders and the Realtors who represent the builders are behind the opposition,” Hutton said. “I say let them try (to ban) and they will face a lawsuit like no tomorrow. These houses are built better with better material and more efficient. I have two other homes planned in the Cape bigger than the one on Kismet.”

The opposing group also maintains the modular homes are are not built on-site or even in-state, representing major job loss for city workers.

“I don’t like it because it takes down home values around it,” said neighbor Rolando Bonilla. “A better place for them might be at the city limits where there are fewer houses. It’s good for the builder, but not for the homes around it.”

Hutton pointed out that he buys the homes from a factory in Cape Coral on Skyline Boulevard. It’s a nationwide corporation headquartered in Indiana.

“I think someone went by the site and saw the home delivered on a flatbed truck,” said Hutton. “That’s where it started.”

According to Department of Community Development director Vince Cautero, the modulars have been around for many years and allowed by city building code.

“This is not a new regulation that we changed,” said Cautero. “As long as they are built to all construction and hurricane codes the only thing that can be done is to change the permit ordinance, but they are approved by the State of Florida.”

In other business, public hearings on council’s agenda includes discussions of two ordinances, one of which deals with the issuance iof utility improvement refunding assessment bonds, series 2015, in order to refund outstanding assessment bonds in an amount not to exceed $55 million. The city aims to save $2.4 million, or nearly 5 percent.

Council, which meets at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, is expected to approve a resolution authorizing the purchase of capital equipment, vehicles and maintenance.