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Florida commissioners look at new proposals, tighter regulations on condos

125 beachfront condos of least 10 floors located in our region
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 13, 2021

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Palm Beach County commissioners are looking to make changes to building codes and regulations in wake of last month's deadly collapse in Surfside.

Contact 5 looked into the changes that could occur after the tragedy.

The task force is gathering building permits from the last 50 years on every condo building that is three stories or higher.

Much of the attention will focus on high-rise condos, especially those right on the beaches.

The median age of a beachfront high-rise building of 10 stories or more in Palm Beach County is 40 years. That is the same age as the Surfside condo that collapsed June 24.

With 86 aging ocean-side high rises in the county, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said fellow commissioners want to know more about the safety of these condos.

"(We hope) to learn at a little deeper lever here, what is on the horizon here, what are we dealing with," Kerner said. "Surfside took us all a little bit by surprise."

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner discusses actions being taken after the Surfside tragedy.

Most of the 39 oceanfront high rises in St. Lucie County were built in the 1980s and 1990s.

St. Lucie County Commission Chair Chris Dzadovsky said the county is looking at how well they were built and maintained and what threatens these condo's safety.

"There's a lot of research going on," said Dzadovsky. "We're gathering information about sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion at the beaches."

A Contact 5 investigation found there are 125 high-rise beachfront condos in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties of at least 10 stories.

Eighty-one percent of them were built before 1993, the same year Florida enacted stricter building codes in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.

"We will see more due diligence the older the building," said Ken H. Johnson, a real estate expert and professor at Florida Atlantic University. "So, there will be a correlation between what a buyer wants to do with the age of the building."

Johnson expects the fallout from the Surfside collapse will lead to a short-term stall in beachfront condo sales at older buildings, while state and local governments decide what to do.

According to Johnson, it will be "more legislation, at least locally, requiring more maintenance and updates and inspections."

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