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Ascension Parish relaxes some rebuilding guidelines

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GONZALES- Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa temporarily suspended a provision that requires all homes to be built one foot above the record inundation elevation.

The hope is that will eventually allow people to get back into their homes faster.

This does not apply to residents living below the base flood elevation and have more than 50 percent of their structure damaged. They will still be forced to elevate their homes before they can rebuild.

The backyard of Lynn DeBenedetto's Prairieville home is her little slice of heaven. A crystal clear swimming pool and a picturesque lake are what keep her smiling. But just feet behind her, she's dealing with a mess.

"To just go through this more than one time, I can't imagine," DeBenedetto said.

Her home took on a foot of water. Water swamped her beautiful swimming pool and entered her home. Most of her home is gutted. Her belongings are gone.

"To go through this, it's almost like a death," DeBenedetto said. "You see all of your belongings in the street, you see your kids trying to help you and everybody trying to help you."

DeBenedetto's home was built according to flood maps currently on the books. She had about a foot of water inside her home. The parish mandates you build one foot above the record inundation level. But with them relaxing those guidelines, she can go ahead and rebuild her home now.

"If you're not 50% substantially damaged which is 50%, you can rebuild your home today," Parish Attorney O'Neil Parenton said. "It's only if your home is going to be demoed."

Parish Attorney O'Neil Parenton said the relaxed guidelines will be in place for 30 days. It could provide residents options to rebuild faster, instead of having to raise their homes.

"We suspended the portion that deals with record inundation," Parenton added. "If you are going to demo your house and rebuild it, you're going to have to be one foot above the base flood elevation, but not the record inundation."

For DeBenedetto, no flood insurance means trying to figure out how to rebuild. She was just denied an SBA loan, since she's retired and only has social security coming in.

"Everybody says stop crying, but it's so overwhelming where do you start," DeBenedetto said. "I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The state says the relaxed guidelines could cause portions of Ascension Parish to drop in their flood classification. There are ten. Each classification allows parishes to get credits. Losing a classification could mean increased flood premiums, but it's way to early to tell when that might happen.

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