FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. - Water quality along Southwest Florida's shores may be starting to impact home sales and vacation rentals near the beach. That's the concern of at least two realtors who say they lost an out-of-state client when he saw the dark and murky Gulf of Mexico.
"We had a real shock this morning," said Mike Reeves of Reeves Family Team, part of Coldwell Banker. Reeves' prospective homebuyer, Terry Reid of Chicago, sent an email saying he was backing out of his Fort Myers Beach condo search because of the dirty water.
WINK News obtained a copy of Reid's email, in which he expressed his disappointment with the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to release fresh water from Lake Okeechobee.
"When I found out what the Army Corps of Engineers did, I just shook my head," Reid said in a phone call Friday afternoon. "This is ridiculous. They're supposed to be conservative in their approaches to what they do."
Reid said he was prepared to spend $350,000 on a new condo, but is now unlikely to return to Southwest Florida. Reeves says his client's decision means a lost commission of about $10,000 at a time of year when sales are usually slower.
For the Corps' part, officials say they must release water from Lake Okeechobee to protect the aging levee system during Florida's wet and rainy season. During a town hall meeting on Thursday, WINK News asked if the Corps would reimburse owners for lost business.
"That's a legal question," said Col. Alan Dodd. "If they choose to file a claim with us, we will look at it and evaluate it."
Dodd could not say whether the Corps would support any claims filed by area business owners, but reassured any claim would be evaluated based on its merits.
Mike Reeves and his wife, Sherry, are considering filing such a claim.
"We talked about it this morning and I think we'll definitely pursue it once we find out what we have to do," he said. "It cost me money. It cost me my bottom line."