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Barriers to post-flood rebuilding in Lyons

Posted: September 10, 2015 at 5:13 pm by , in Featured, Flood, Morning Magazine

David Wexler’s family has lived in Lyons for more than 100 years. But for the past 2 years he and his family has been living in an RV on the grounds of his house in the Confluence area, one of the hardest hit parts of Lyons in the 2013 flood. Wexler says he is frustrated by the process to get a rebuilding permit. He says he has submitted rebuilding plans at least 6 times to the town engineer, only to have them sent back each time, with different instructions  “a lot of it’s minimal, some people are showing a 3/4 inch discrepancy from one page to another on plans and they’re getting them kicked back. Some of them are probably viable, but the real problem is they’re only reviewing so far instead of reviewing the plans completely and letting you fix all of the things at once and resubmit and move on.”

Wexler’s wife Kat says it’s been tough living in an RV for over a year with two young boys “the flood was no problem compared to how we are being treated by people in the town.”

Joe Meckle, another resident in the confluence has also been waiting for a rebuilding permit. “This process of declining the plans and sending them back and telling you to get it re-engineered, get a new engineer, hire a new surveyor…it’s really frustrating…I don’t want to be in another meeting with the Mayor discussing this, we want to rebuild our houses.”

Joe O’Brien the Mayor of Lyons says one of the issues is the complexity of navigating federal regulations around building in a flood plain and a flood way, “there are lots of extra laws and rules and regulations mostly imposed by FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program and our concern from the town’s perspective is if you don’t get it right the whole town can lose the National Flood Insurance Program, which is very serious.”

Mayor O’Brien recently chaired a meeting with the Confluence residents and he says the town is committed to helping them with the rebuilding effort and will improve communication and response time on building permits.

“These are our friends and neighbors…we know these people, we communicate with them, we live with them and I understand their frustrations.”

The town has contracted with a second engineer to help review permits but resident David Wexler says that may be too little too late “in the meantime that could take two months to get up to speed and we have three or four people that are long into the process that it seems like they could require the engineer they have now to just finish up, stay focused and help us.”

Wexler says when he gets his building permit, he hopes to have completed construction on his home in 3 months, but with Fall and Winter approaching, time is of the essence.