After hurricane: Some still coping, recovering

Some homeowners quickly sorted out their affairs after the recent October storm, but several are possibly still dealing with damage.
A letter addressed to Darien property owners, on behalf of the offices of planning and zoning and the building department, let them know that they need to file zoning and building permits before they renovate or rebuild their home. Due to the effect of the storm, the town is allowing people to expedite the paperwork.

As of Dec. 3, P&Z had not received any applications for expedition, according to Jeremy Ginsberg, director, although he has spoken to several homeowners personally about their situations.

“There have been people who have had trees fallen on their roofs [and] need new roofs,” Ginsberg said. Some with “flooding in their basement and flooding on the first floor,” he added.

Many people were talking about neighbors who were living in temporary residences. “I counted 22 dumpsters in yards about a week ago,” said Noroton Bay resident, Sandy McDonald, “There’s a rumor that 20 houses down here aren’t being lived in.”

People are going through the “terrible decision of whether to tear their home down or raise it to FEMA flood levels, McDonald said.

Two weeks after the storm, about 12 homes were uninhabitable, according to Marc McEwan, deputy fire marshal and director of the emergency office center, but there may be almost twice as many homes that were not reported to the town, he said. This information is not inclusive, he added, because many people went straight to their insurance companies or through FEMA. The town does not get involved with the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s work with residents and do not receive their data, McEwan said.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said that there were  17 uninhabitable homes, in her state of the town address on Monday, Dec. 10.
“The town is working closely with residents in Noroton Bay to facilitate the process for home repairs and rebuilding,” she said. “A reminder to those needing FEMA assistance or low-interest SBA loans — all applications must be submitted by the end of this month.”

The preliminary insurance losses in Connecticut are between $170 million and $300 million, said Donna Tommelleo, communications representative for the Connecticut Insurance Department, though the numbers do not include National Flood Insurance policies and private homeowner losses.

The department saw 60,000 claims after Irene, costing $240 million, she said.

As of the close of business on December 10, FEMA has 7,001 disaster relief registrations in Fairfield County, according to Bill Lehman, external affairs director for FEMA. The organization has supplied $9.7 million to all of Connecticut, he said, not including National Flood Insurance Policy.

“We’re still gathering figures but information to date suggests it will cost the Town nearly $1 million dollars before insurance and any FEMA reimbursements – 4 times that of any storm on record,” Stevenson said.

“State law requires insurers to respond promptly and in a reasonable amount of time,” Tommelleo said. “About 180 days. [It] can go longer if homeowner gets money and wants to appeal.”

Her suggestion for the next storm: “Make sure you look at your policy. Call your agent. There should be no surprises.”

Home insurance rates “are going to be in a state of flux until rates are going to be [set],” said Jeff Kelly, realtor at Kelly Associates in Darien.

“We don’t have a ton of clarity because FEMA insurance companies are still trying to get their brains around [the costs]” he said. “That will obviously trickle down to insurance rates.”

“What happened [in Noroton Bay] was transformative. I think you’ll see some unanimity among the homeowners about what to do at this point.”

Homeowners will also have to appeal the price of their homes, said Anthony Homicki, town assessor. “They would appeal to have their home value lowered, but it would be followed up with an inspection once the work is complete.”

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