Herman Mensch has had his house at 956 Peachtree Battle Circle flooded out twice in five years as the result of major storms—the last time during the storms and floods in September which resulted in the house being declared more than 60 percent damaged.
By John Schaffnereditor@reporternewspapers.net
Herman Mensch has had his house at 956 Peachtree Battle Circle flooded out twice in five years as the result of major storms—the last time during the storms and floods in September which resulted in the house being declared more than 60 percent damaged. Now he wants to tear down the house and start anew, rebuilding in the same spot. But Mensch has been unable to rebuild or live in his house for months while the Department of Watershed Management and city attorneys rewrite parts of the city ordinance pertaining to repairing or rebuilding damaged homes in flood plain areas. It is now in the hands of Atlanta City Council. Mensch has two complaints with what he is being told by the city regarding building a new structure on his property in the Peachtree Creek flood plain. First, he contends he must use a smaller footprint for rebuilding than his neighbors used when they rebuilt homes in the past few years. Second, he is being told he has to allow for wall openings totaling 50 percent of the lower-level wall below the 100-year base flood elevation, which he claims is a security risk and unnecessary. Both regulations, he says, will restrict him from building the style of two- tory style he has chosen as a replacement for his single-story ranch-style house. Both provisions also still are being reworked as part of the new revisions to the city ordinances.Although the ordinance has not yet been passed by City Council, Mensch says he is being held to these standards by the city’s Site Development section of the Department of Watershed Management and the city’s Bureau of Buildings. His story is one still shared by other Atlantans who have homes in flood plains that were damaged by September floods and must be either removed or rebuilt. Mensch’s home was first flooded during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. He was underinsured at the time and could not immediately rebuild. He decided to fix the house and moved back in Aug. 1, 2009. Last Sept. 21, he was flooded again. This time the flooding was much worse, but he was fully insured. The home was assessed by the city as being over 50 percent damaged. “I was told to either remove it from the property or rebuild,” Mensch said. He went to the Bureau of Buildings to start the permitting process and was told he first needed to get his plan approved through Site Development because the lot is in the flood plain.Mensch showed Lowell Chambers, director of Site Development, plans for his new house, which “is on the same footprint, including the carport and patio space,” Mensch said. According to Mensch, Chambers told him he “could not rebuild outside the footprint of the heated square feet of the house” though the present city ordinance does not state that. Mensch said Chambers told him the Department of Watershed was under a lot of scrutiny by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the September storm. He said a new ordinance would be presented to City Council Jan. 4. Chambers did not return phone calls seeking comment.“I have read the proposed ordinance and for the most part it is favorable for anyone trying to rebuild,” Mensch said. Mensch said he still objects to the part requiring that wall openings equal 50 percent of the total wall area below the 100-year base flood elevation. FEMA requires only one square inch of wall opening for every square foot of enclosed area, he said. He said the proposed ordinance requires 360 square feet of unobstructed wall opening if the base flood elevation is 4 feet above grade. His is 7 feet. “That is outrageous,” Mensch stated. “We are not living in the middle of the creek where water moves rapidly. I understand making things a little stricter, but 25 times stricter—44 times in my case—does not make sense. This rule will affect the aesthetics of what most of us want to build and must be rewritten.” He and several like-minded people on his street “have sent e-mails to new Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, Sarah Mills, deputy commissioner and Commissioner Robert Hunter of Watershed Management. Mensch said he took Adrean on a tour of flood-damaged homes on south Buckhead streets and some that have been rebuilt. Mensch and a few homeowners also have met with Adrean, Dist. 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore, Mills and city attorneys. “Everyone affected by the flood is looking for a speedy resolution to this situation so we can rebuild and move back into our homes,” Mensch said.