Owners of condemned condos hope for a speedy storm solution

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — Before Hurricane Ian hit Florida in late September, Las Brisas board member Curt Lentz says the condominium association had already been pushing for the construction of a protective seawall.

They’d wanted to build one for years, Lentz said, but Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) didn’t deem Las Brisas “vulnerable” enough for a seawall — that is, until Ian swept away a chunk of sand dune separating the oceanfront property from the water.

“All of a sudden, we qualified,” Lentz said, adding that they found out just last week.

But soon enough, Hurricane Nicole came sweeping away even more of the sand dune and land beneath the building. Now, the two waterfront buildings at Las Brisas have been deemed officially unsafe by Volusia County officials. The other three residential buildings on the 42-unit property are safe, Lentz said.

The level of damage wrought by Nicole was a shock to Lentz, the condominium board secretary and longtime resident at Las Brisas.

“We’ve been very lucky with hurricanes,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years and we’ve had one or two swipe us, but nothing like Nicole.”

Several high-rise buildings with seawalls just down the beach from Las Brisas had no notable damage from Nicole, Lentz says — leaving him and some other residents wondering what could have gone differently, if their property had also had one.

“If we had (the seawall) now, or if we would’ve had it, we wouldn’t be looking at this today,” Lentz said