Flood victims feel ''violated' by Travis Co. permitting requirem - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Flood victims feel ''violated' by Travis Co. permitting requirements

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The cleanup continues after the devastating Halloween floods just weeks ago. While the City of Austin is waiving all permit fees for the flood victims, people who live out in the county are having a much more difficult time.

On Halloween night retired Vietnam veteran Colonel Del Lippard was enjoying a quiet evening at home when his neighbor from across the street, Michael Finney, asked if his family could stay there for a while because their home was taking on water.

Pretty soon, much to their surprise, the Colonel's house started flooding too.

"He insisted and I resisted. I didn't want to leave the house. He said 'Colonel we've got to go,'" Lippard said.

In the weeks since, Colonel Lippard has decided to sell the house and move to San Antonio with family.

So he hired a crew to come in and cut out the wet drywall and replace it.

"There was about probably four inches of water in my house," he says.

Wednesday while crews were working, a Travis County employee delivered a red "Stop Work Notice."

"I feel like I've been violated by the County. We asked no quarter. We said 'We'll take care of this ourselves out here.' And then they came along, much late and said 'We discovered you! And we're going to charge you for a permit to rebuild your life.' And I'm offended by that," Lippard said.

Finney's house was hit much worse. He's been doing all of the work himself.

He was hoping to put in some insulation before this week's cold spell to protect his pets and his wife's plants.

But he got a warning on his door not to start any work before getting a permit.

Finney says he just can't afford it.

"The day after the flood I had to go buy my kids clothes just to take them to school. I've got $400 in just washing all the clothes in the house here, tearing out, paying for dumpsters and trash hauls and everything. I don't have 50 cents to give you right now let alone $50," Finney said.

Finney says he later found out the permit for the work would be more than $100.

He doesn't understand why permits are needed anyway since the flood victims are not remodeling, they're just putting back what was already there.

"Get off the phone, pick up a handful of permits...come out here to the neighborhood and say 'We're sorry that this happened to you guys. We're gonna waive the fees. If you've got 10 minutes, we'll fill out this permit, put it on your window and you guys can go back to getting your lives put back in shape,'" Finney said.

"Have I got time to go looking for some County office that will issue me a permit or would it be kind of them for them to come down here to us and say 'I've got a pile of permits here...if you've got $114, we'll issue you a permit right now. If you don't have $114, we'll take it to the County commissioners and try to get it waived,'" Lippard said.

The City of Austin has waived the permit fees as long as you live in a place they know has been flooded.

They're set up at the Dove Springs Community Center and the permits are "same day."

However, Judge Sam Biscoe with Travis County tells us you should contact the county before beginning any work.

"Residents whose homes were damaged in the recent floods should contact the county before beginning to make repairs or improvements. This gives the county an opportunity to determine the extent of the damage. Permits are required for both minor and major repairs. If the county "red tags" a construction project, the owner should contact the Travis County TNR Permit Staff at 512-854-4215. Thus far, the county has "red tagged" three residences.

If a property owner cannot pay a permit fee, the county may waive all or part of it. However, in order to determine if a waiver is appropriate, financial information must be provided. A determination will be made on a case-by-case basis. The county generally does not grant a blanket waiver. However, we have been, and will continue to be, both reasonable and generous in waiving fees for eligible residents.

Permits are being expedited. A contractor's estimate for repairs is required.

--Sam Biscoe

Biscoe says they will discuss the permitting again at this Tuesday's commissioners meeting but they will most likely not waive all permit fees...nor have they ever.

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