Colorado Homeowners Begin Rebuilding After September Floods

March 20, 2014

More than 20 Larimer County homeowners have been told they can rebuild their homes destroyed by September’s flooding, after federal and county officials had earlier denied their permits.

Their homes were among the 74 along U.S. Highway 34 that were declared more than 50 percent destroyed and not re-buildable following flood damage assessments by federal inspectors. More than 50 of those homes are still being condemned because of significant damage and will have to be torn down.

Carolyn Dunning’s home of 20 years was largely spared by the devastating September floods, but officials said her Drake home was a lost cause after her garage floor sunk 4 feet into the ground.

Larimer County declared Dunning’s home 65 percent destroyed in December and it was deemed not re-buildable by federal inspectors.

When the 73-year-old Dunning and her husband, Gilbert Dunning, 88, climbed over heaps of flood debris to look at their home off River Fork Road in the fall, they were surprised.

“First of all, our house was not touched,” Carolyn Dunning said.

The Dunnings and several of their neighbors called Larimer County to contest the initial assessments. The county sent letters to all of the 74 residents whose homes were declared more than 50 percent damaged, informing them that it would re-evaluate the original assessment.

This week, 22 homeowners along the main road to Estes Park will be getting good news that they can rebuild. The assessments determine the cost of repairing damaged buildings; if the costs exceed 50 percent of a building’s appraised value, it is declared “substantially damaged,” or not re-buildable.

“Until that percentage was adjusted, we couldn’t do anything,” Carolyn Dunning said. “Our vehicles, two cars, were still trapped in there. They built our road about a month ago, and we finally got our vehicles out.”

“You cannot have it repaired, you cannot return to it,” Dunning said. “You have to have it torn down.”

Eric Fried, Larimer County’s chief building official, started getting calls from confused homeowners who thought the ratings were inaccurate after the first round of letters went out. Federal agents initially assessed the homes and gave damage information to Larimer County, which then plugged it into an algorithm to determine total percent damaged, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported Monday.

Fried and his team decided to take another look at the assessment process.

All property owners with buildings more than 50 percent destroyed can contest the county’s damage assessment, said Fried, even if their homes are on the tear-down list. But if the county’s decision stands, property owners will have to tear down the damaged structures, or else pay the county for the work.

“If they don’t take care of it, the county will have to go in and demolish those buildings for them and charge them,” Fried said.

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