New Jersey Towns Waive Permit Fees in Flood Recovery ~

Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee visited catastrophic flooding on parts of New Jersey, along with other Northeast states. Homeowners and businesspeople are struggling to make repairs, and to manage the financial fallout of the disaster. But one thing citizens in some New Jersey towns won’t have to worry about is construction permit fees, according to the New Brunswick Home News Tribune (“ Towns waive permit fee for flood repairs,” by Sergio Bichao). “Bridgewater, [New Jersey], is one of many municipalities in the state that has waived construction permit fees, eased permitting rules and hired more inspectors to speed up the process after the back-to-back flooding last month kicked people out of homes and shuttered businesses,” the paper reports. Flooding damaged a third of the homes in Manville, N.J., the paper reports, and officials there have issued more than 550 permits for flood-related work. Nearby Bridgewater has issued 150 permits. In Bridgewater, building inspector Stephen Rodzinak told the paper, “We give them (homeowners) permission to start the work before the permits are issued and then when the work is completed they call us and get a courtesy inspection. We are not trying to hold them up. We want them in their homes as fast as possible.” Meanwhile, some homeowners are considering the option of selling out, rather than repair or rebuild, reports the Passaic Valley Today (“ Township working to give homeowners option of elevation or buy out,” by Matthew Kadosh). Homes located in a flood plain in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program must be lifted above the Base Flood Elevation in order to receive insurance payouts, if the damage in a flood exceeds 50% of the building’s value. But FEMA, which runs the NFIP, would prefer to buy out homeowners when funds are available, thus eliminating the risk altogether. "Acquisition is of course the better solution," FEMA mitigation specialist Mike Foley told the paper. "Elevation is a solution but it leaves the structure in the flood plain."