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In wake of Ian, Cape looks again at boat canopies

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 29, 2024

Storm surge from Hurricane Ian in 2022 lifted boats, tore them from their morings and then left them scattered along roadways and yards as the waters receded. FILE/VALARIE HARRING

The city of Cape Coral is looking at how it regulates boat canopies, including whether the coverings allowed at residential boat docks should include permanent structures.

All but one Cape Coral City Council member thought further discussion should be had about permanent structures, which would be in addition to the fabric canopies already permitted.

“I definitely have some issues with this one,” Councilmember Tom Hayden said at Wednesday’s workshop. “Storm surge. That became a factor after Ian. We saw a lot of docks, boat lifts destroyed because of the surge that came in through the river and canals.”

Councilmember Bill Steinke brought the discussion forward because it would offer seasonal residents the option to further harden their property.

“Not considering hardening those areas on the canal should be reconsidered,” he said, adding that there is no difference in the view being blocked, so to speak, from a more permanent structure that meets the code. “The structure was constructed so it could withstand those wind speeds. Permitting would be involved.”

Steinke said with materials not having to be taken off, it would help harden the area and give residents peace of mind instead of having to scurry from up north to remove the fabric canopy. Hardening the structures would protect the vessels, which he thinks would be a good effort.

Councilmember Richard Carr said he was not opposed to the permanent structure as long as it meets Florida building codes.

“I think the boat lift could be accommodated within a permanent structure,” he said.

The current canopy material and design calls for a resistant fabric material with an open design that must be attached and easily detached once winds hit 70 miles per hour.

Obstruction of view and safety during a hurricane were among the greatest concerns with cost also mentioned.

Hayden said although a permanent structure would not have any sides, when you factor in storm surge, a permanent structure may come down.

“It has to do with what we lost from the piers and everything else. We are putting more permanent structure into our canals as opposed to a canopy,” Hayden said.

He said the height of the permanent structure may extend beyond 14 feet because of the slopes and curves of the roof.

“The issue before was simply the blocking of views for other people. Put up a permanent roof structure that would be higher than the canopy and provide more dense material that people can’t see through,” Hayden said.

“I appreciate the discussion. I don’t know right now I am convinced the canopy way is the wrong way to go. I think it is the right way to go because of surge.”

Mayor John Gunter also expressed a safety concern related to design, saying the last thing he would want is for projectiles from a permanent structure to slam into the side of his boat.

Metal roofs have a higher rating for resistance and aluminum structures seemed to bend, but never broke free during the last hurricane, he said.

Steinke said he knows a minority of people would take advantage of a permanent structure from a cost perspective. He said they could put parameters down such as a metal roof because it is the most resilient.

“Projectile is all about attachment. How is that roof attached to that structure — attached in the best way possible,” Steinke said.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard said although he is not an engineer, he knows that the posts that are put in for a dock are designed to handle pressure. He said the amount of pressure during a hurricane could create more damage.

“What we are doing right now is the proper method. I am looking at the safety end of it,” Sheppard said.