Travis County votes to waive most flood-related permitting fees, help residents clean up debris

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During the mid-October rains that produced widespread flooding throughout western Travis County and beyond, Brooks Hollow resident Trent Chastain ended up with 12.5 feet of water in his garage, but not his house. His house is substantially higher than his garage.

After the flood waters started receding, Chastain received a notice from Travis County informing him that the repair of damage on his house is prohibited without proper authorization.

“This structure has sustained flood damage or has been affected by flooding. It has been included in the damage assessment survey conducted by Travis County,” the notice states.

It then states that recipients of the notice must contact Travis County Permits before doing any repair work.

“I called Travis County and told the worker I had no structural damage, I’m just hauling off debris.” Chastain said. “He asked for my address and said I had to have a permit anyway, and I asked: ‘For what?’ I’m going to go by what the notice says.”

Chastain is one of many home owners hit by the flooding who have received the notice requiring a permit from Travis County at a cost of $115.

Approximately 485 structures were affected in the flooding, said Travis County Floodplain Administrator Stacy Scheffel in a Nov. 6 presentation to Travis County Commissioners. In order to remain compliant with the National Flood Insurance Program, the county must permit the repair of the structures damaged or affected by the flooding, she said.

“It’s really important under our FEMA criteria to permit the repairs of any structure that was affected,” Scheffel said. “The question that comes up after every disaster is—does the Commissioners Court want to waive the permitting fee?”

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, commissioners agreed to waive fees for property owners who provide documentation that their insurance does not cover the cost. By waiving fees for the affected properties, the county will forgo about $55,775 in revenue, according to county documents.

“That’s not revenue you expected to get,” Scheffel said. “These folks didn’t expect to have to come in for permits.”

Debris cleanup

The recent flooding not only damaged property along the Colorado River watershed, it also created a massive amount of debris. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt declared a state of disaster on Oct. 16 that remains in effect at the time of this writing.

County officials on Tuesday also authorized assistance to private property owners with the cleanup of debris associated with the declared disaster.

Debris cleanup assistance includes:
• Assessing the nature and scope of unmet disaster debris cleanup needs: determining where threats exist, amount and types of debris and options for debris cleanup
• Deploying county staff and other resources to pick up and dispose of debris that property owners have collected from their private property and placed along county roads and rights-of-way as needed
• Entering private property to assist in cleanup of disaster debris, according to specifications in the county policy

The action taken today does not include cleanup for commercial or industrial properties or any debris not caused by the recent flooding. Additionally, assistance will only be provided within the area affected by the disaster.

“Although it’s unfortunate that these [disasters]happen with regularity, the silver lining, I suppose, is that we have developed a muscle and a history with how to deal with this [in Travis County],” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

Resources for residents affected by recent floods

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, Travis County residents affected by recent floods are invited to stop by a multi-agency resource center. Services include financial assistance, permit information, clean up kits, food boxes, damage assessment and more. Residents are asked to bring identification and proof of home ownership or residency. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Emmaus Catholic Parish, 1718 Lohmans Crossing, Lakeway.

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Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Jackson Buchanan is the Senior Reporter for Southwest Austin. She covers local transportation, development, education, healthcare and Travis County Commissioners Court. She has a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas and has been with Community Impact Newspaper since May 2018.
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