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Modular homes issue dominates discussion at NW Neighborhood meeting

By Staff | Jan 22, 2016

County Commissioner Brian Hamman doesn’t get upstaged very often, but during Thursday’s Northwest Cape Neighborhood Association meeting at Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary School, it was a discussion about an increasingly controversial topic that drew the most response from the packed house.

Hamman discussed the state of Lee County, as well as topics that were of interest to the northwest Cape. But what really piqued people’s interest was a discussion on modular homes and what can be done about them.

The answer to that question? Not much.

John Bashaw, who heads the association’s Architectural Standards Committee, held a presentation on the topic that has become a very polarizing issue.

There are currently two modular homes being built in the city, with two more on the way, Bashaw said. Residents say the homes, built by Gold Key Homes out of Ocala, are out of place in the Cape.

“My fear is modular homes are getting a break on building codes. What amazes me is why you would put those up for $117 a square foot?” one resident said. “You could put up a real house up for that. These things are designed to be put on a truck. We need to tear apart one of these houses.”

There are a number of modular homes in Cape Coral, the first of which was built on Hancock Bridge Parkway in 1989. You wouldn’t know it because once the house is completed, the city doesn’t recognize it as modular, Bashaw said.

“They just don’t seem to fit. This committee is not addressing that these are modular homes, but they don’t seem to look right,” Bashaw said, adding that the e-mails he has gotten express concern this housing option will reduce property values, that they’re “low-income housing,” and aren’t what you would expect in Cape Coral.

Bashaw educated residents about modular homes, and said there are such homes that are built to exacting standards and look as beautiful as a site-built home.

What can be done about it? Bashaw said not a lot. For one, the modular homes are built to the same standards as site-built homes. Also, according to state law, modular homes cannot be discriminated against by municipalities. Any codes regarding those type of homes must apply to all homes.

Hamman said there wasn’t much he could do, since it’s a city issue, though he saw one of the homes near his own and understands their concerns.

Bashaw said the mayor and city council do not support preventing modular homes from being built. But he did say there is an opportunity to change how modular homes look in the city.

“If we can’t keep modular homes from being built, maybe we can step them up a bit so they fit and meet the harmony we expect in Cape Coral,” Bashaw said. “The opportunity to market his homes by building the right style home is great.”

Ralph Santillo used to build modular homes in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. He said you cannot stop modular homes from being built, as the federal courts have ruled.

“The fault you have is you have a builder who chose the wrong style of home,” Santillo said. “That money you have will go to lawyers if you fight this. He needs to build the right houses.”

As for Hamman, he discussed items such as the Burnt Store Road widening project, the Ceitus Boatlift and the progress being made on that effort, and many county issues and how the area has bounced back from the depths of the recession to the point where they have a balanced budget.