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Permits and Panic

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The mass confusion of late over building permits and deadlines has caused quite a bit of panic. The misinformation that spread, partly from within our own government, extends from an anticipated audit by FEMA of the permit files in the Office of Community Development. FEMA has reported that their interpretation of the Code of Federal Regulations that govern compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires every house that is being repaired after Hurricane Katrina have a Building Permit. However, the Code of Federal Regulations also states that compliance with the program is based on the local ordinance process- St. Bernard Parish has never required a permit for cosmetic or non-structural construction. FEMA representatives have been on-site and present in the permit office almost as long as permits have been issued since Hurricane Katrina and never questioned the process until recently.

As the Parish Council has moved closer to adopting the FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations, FEMA representatives began questioning if the electrical, plumbing, gas or Katrina Rebuilding permit were valid based on the interpretation of the regulations. Numerous discussions with FEMA representatives over this issue indicated that the 8,000 to 10,000 permits that had been issued over the last 16 months following the storm would be accepted, but as a compromise any permits that are issued currently would include a Building Permit and that anyone who already had filed one of the many permits would be given a Building Permit if an application was filed. Residents should be reminded that the electrical permits that were filed as “will call” permits and that were not acted on and are six months old, should be renewed.

The misinformation that was spread indicated that everyone who had obtained one of the many permits issued prior to this latest development would be in jeopardy of having to elevate their house in order to get flood insurance once the ABFE guidelines were adopted. Here are the simple FACTS:

  • Anyone who filed a valid electrical, plumbing, gas, or Katrina Rebuilding Permit is compliant with parish requirements and are not in jeopardy of having to elevate their house

  • Anyone who has not filed a permit application to date will need to do so before the implementation of the Advisory Base Flood Elevations

  • If a permit is not filed before the Advisory Base Flood Elevations are implemented and the property is substantially damaged, then the house will have to be elevated to the ABFE, if not already at that elevation

  • The implementation date of the ABFE is slated for 60 days after the April 3 adoption- this means that the Advisory Base Flood Elevations will go into effect on Monday, June 3, 2007 and residents have until then to file for the Building Permit if doing so

  • Anyone who had previously filed a permit is being requested NOT REQUIRED by the Office of Community Development to fill out the new Building Permit to assist in making the audit process that FEMA will begin shortly a smooth one

  • Building permits can be downloaded from the web site and then sent or delivered to the Office of Community Development

God Bless,
Craig Taffaro


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