Bellaire homeowners looking for help after repeat flooding

Tom Abrahams Image
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Bellaire flood victims at odds with city after Harvey
Neighbors in Bellaire say they are at odds with the city after they were hit by Harvey's floods.

BELLAIRE, Texas (KTRK) -- Like so much of southeast Texas, the city of Bellaire took on a lot of water when Harvey hit. Nearly a third of the homes flooded.

But even with the water gone for more than a month now, one homeowner told Eyewitness News she feels like she's swimming upstream to prevent her home from flooding again.

In fact, Kim Martin's Bellaire home has flooded four times since she bought it. When she knew Harvey was coming, she moved everything she owned into a storage unit.

"I feel fortunate compared to what a lot of people got," she said. "But it still was 14 inches."

She's quickly repaired the drywall damage in her one-story home without getting permits. But she says she can't stop her home from flooding again. When it was declared substantially damaged after the Memorial Day flood, the city of Bellaire said it would no longer give her a permit to improve her property.

A "substantially damaged" home is one in which the damage is greater than 50 percent of the home's value.

"I've done everything I'm allowed to do to try to make a difference or whatever, and it's not happening," she explained.

Neighbor Dewitt Eaton, who didn't flood, feels for those around him who did.

"You just watch it go into their homes and there's absolutely nothing you can do," said Eaton.

Martin's only options are to sell, tear down, or raise the house. She says she needs a federal grant to help with the last two options, but that the city, which has to apply on behalf of homeowners, has done little to assist.

Paul Hofmann is the city manager. He showed us Bellaire's recovery help center, where they provide volunteer assistance and expedited permitting for those who qualify. He says of the 2000 homes that flooded, 500 have applied for permits. Eight were denied for the same reasons Kim Martin was previously.

"There are still a lot of scared and worried people out there wondering about the future of their homes," said Hofmann.

He defended the permitting requirement by citing safety concerns for homes that don't fall into compliance with rules passed in 2004 to mitigate future flooding.

"People are safer when they live in structures that are compliant with our flood plain regulations," he explained. "If you live in a structure that's compliant with those standards, you're safer and so are the first responders we were sending out in the middle of the night to come get you."

Hofmann also said the city has applied for FEMA grants in a previous flood that might have helped Martin. They were denied. Though he says they will apply again.

They've also improved drainage on Martin's street this year. Martin said she may have to give up and leave her dream home.

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