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Rebuilding in question following elevation warnings

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BATON ROUGE - There's confusion over whether to rebuild or wait in one subdivision.

Residents began getting the green light and the permits needed for construction last month. Now, some of their neighbors are receiving emailed letters saying their homes will have to be raised, first.

Most homes in the Old Jefferson Subdivision received feet of water during the August flood. David Marmillion is anxious to start rebuilding after his home took on five feet of water. It's gutted and he's ready to start construction. Instead, he's in a holding pattern after he was told he will have to elevate his home.

"It doesn't make sense," said Marmillion.

In October, Marmillion went to city hall to get a building permit. He tells News 2 he signed the proper paperwork to confirm his home received less than 50 percent damage, the number which the city-parish Department of Development determines as "Substantial Damage." He was given permission to build, with the issuing of his permit.

Others in his neighborhood have been told something similar.

"When I got this permit, I was at 37 percent, so that seems fairly clear to me that it was okay to go ahead," said Peggy Gonzales.

The cost to rebuild is a little more than a third of the value of Gonzales' home. Well below the cut off the city-parish set requiring home owners to raise their houses.

Last week, Gonzales got a letter in the mail from the Department of Development saying her damage exceeded 50 percent and she was required to bring her home into compliance, which includes elevating the foundation.

"So now they're telling us we have to elevate," said Marmillion. "That's very confusing to me because we've been granted a building permit."

The Department of Development tells 2 On Your Side if you have a permit, you should be able to build. The city-parish says it's going with the contractor's bid, when determining if a home has to be elevated. The city-parish also says, this could different from home damage estimate taken by a company contracted by FEMA.

The confusion has affected a subdivision. Some residents aren't sure what to believe and they're worried if they start to build, they'll have to elevate their home later.

"We could elevate, we could not elevate," said Marmillion. "But if we don't elevate does that mean we're going to be paying $15,000 a year in flood insurance?"

The city-parish says every house is different. Homeowners tell News 2 it doesn't make them feel better knowing their neighbors flooded just as much as they did, but they don't have to raise their house.

Check WBRZ for updates on this story.


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