Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flooded-Out Residents Protest Regulations, Red Tape Homes Improved without Permits Are Now Undervalued

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flooded-Out Residents Protest Regulations, Red Tape Homes Improved without Permits Are Now Undervalued

Article excerpt

Marie Tarrant, 78, would like to return to her flood-damaged home of 50 years on the Meramec River in Sunset Hills.

But because of what one St. Louis County official calls misinformation and miscommunication, and another calls "an incredible bureaucracy," she may have to wait a while longer.

Tarrant's daughter, Linda Tarrant, said her mother had been in and out of the house in the 9900 block of Rock Alva Road a number of times since the Great Flood of 1993. But when spring floods came last April, Union Electric Co. disconnected the electricity, and county officials barred the Tarrants and about 12 other families from returning.

"I think the county is trying to keep people from going back into the flood plain," Linda Tarrant said. "It appears they are singling out this area for enforcement. I certainly think they don't want us back in."

But County Counselor John Ross said the county was not taking a position on whether people should move back into the flood plain. Officials are just enforcing regulations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that have been adopted by the county, he said.

Marie Tarrant moved in with her daughter in Fenton after leaving her flood-damaged house. But she is eager to return. "I have a lot of memories there. I would love to get back," she said.

Tarrant and her late husband lived through a number of floods in what were known as club houses before World War II. The club houses, off West Watson Road near Fenton, later became permanent residences as improvements were added - often without required permits.

The lack of those permits could be a factor in the residents' problems. Because the county was unaware of the improvements, residents say the county has been under-assessing their property.

Linda Tarrant said county inspectors had refused to let her mother repair her house because, they said, the damage to it was greater than 50 percent of its fair market value - the federal cut-off level for rebuilding flood-damaged houses. She filed an appeal with the county to have her mother's property assessment raised. When the county denied that request, Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, got involved.

Odenwald exchanged letters on the residents' behalf with Ross and met with the county assessor. …

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