Bevil Oaks council votes to revoke the more stringent building requirements

Bevil Oaks council votes to revoke the more stringent building requirements

Bevil Oaks residents gathered once again at the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission in Beaumont on Sept. 28, waiting to see their City Council’s decision on construction requirements for rebuilding.

After discussion, the City Council voted to remove the 2-foot freeboard requirement for all new construction and substantially damaged or substantially improved homes within the special flood hazard areas. This motion will expire or be reconsidered for extension in one year.

Councilwoman Martha Vautrot called for the complete removal of the requirement, returning the standard to base flood elevation.

“I’ve been here for 24 years now. Like y’all, I lost everything. I didn’t have insurance,” she said. “We don’t want to lose you; we want you to stay. …

“So what if I have to pay a little bit more insurance a year? It’s better than paying thousands of dollars to lift my house.”

The city’s certified floodplain manager Kimberely Vandver explained that leaving the current regulations at 2 feet of freeboard “leaves 170 homes … that [are] not in compliance.” Homes not in compliance would have to be elevated or demolished, she explained.

FEMA officials in Region 6 confirmed with Vandver that the previous regulation could be removed Sept. 23, she said.

“Every answer I got [previously] was no, that is your agreement with us that y’all signed in 2007, until Saturday night at 4:59 p.m.,” Vandver explained to the residents. “I got an official answer from Region 6 that said yes, you can do it. They can lower it, but do know that the consequences are you will lose those points.”

The points, she said, are part of the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. Bevil Oaks is currently rated No. 7 in the system, but that would change once the freeboard requirement is removed.

Homes in zone AE currently receive a 15 percent discount on flood insurance and zone X receives a 10 percent discount, according to Vandver.

Once the council voted to approve the measure, 231 homes no longer had to be elevated or torn down, leaving only 44 houses that are possibly not NFIP compliant, according to the city’s official statement. Out of those 44, eight are possibly historical and may be exempted.

While the previous meetings were filled with people calling out criticism of their officials, similar comments were this time booed and shouted down by other residents.

Along with other residents, Bud Merendino repeated his criticisms of the city, calling for the dissolution of City Council.

“I have been working day and night since this thing hit. … I had no place to live,” Ford responded, followed by clapping and cheers. “I was taking care of city business 24/7.”

Resident Joan Howard called the meeting “fantastic for Bevil Oaks” and expressed support for the mayor.

“There was no way [city government] could have prevented what happened,” she added.