To override, or not to override: Melancon on fill ordinance (vetoed by Matassa)

 

NOTE:  Chase Melancon shared the following letter with each member of the Parish Council in anticipation of Thursday night’s vote to override President Kenny Matassa’s veto of the ordinance capping fill material used by new construction at three feet.  The ordinance also establishes new elevation requirements, adding a foot to existing code.


I know tomorrow there is a big vote for everyone. Unfortunately, with the late notice of the vote whether to overturn President Matassa’s veto or not I could not change my work schedule and will be unable to attend Thursday’s meeting in D’ville. I have some pictures and info of new construction homes, in both D-6 and D-2 I’d like to share with you all of real scenarios that have taken place. These numbers are fact, not just my opinion. Will apologize in advance for my poor photography, and if this gets a little lengthy.

I’d like to tell everyone about my own personal experiences with building my new home ( Constructed in 2016 and moved into home in Jan 2017) in D-6 off of HWY 429 between Savoy and Buxton road at BFE +2’, and what my wife and I did to limit the fill on our property. We are in Flood Zone AE. BFE for my land is 8’+1’ which meant my floor had to be at 9’ minimum. Average elevation of my acre of land was 5’6. Before the construction started my insurance agent informed me that if I went > 9’6 on my home elevation that FEMA rounds up and we would get a huge flood insurance discount.

But we did not want the 3-4 ft “ant hill” look. We decided to utilize the dropped brick ledge for better aesthetics of our home. We put down a 2’ dirt pad (on average), did an 18-inch dropped brick ledge, + the 2”x12” of the concrete form, which is typical. We raised the floor of our home over 4’ with only 2’ of dirt. We eliminated 18 inches of fill around the exterior of our home and of course the large sloping which causes major runoff onto your neighbors. We lowered the floor on our carport and outdoor kitchen area a foot lower than the house to reduce the amount of fill as well. We have one small brick step leading into our home. Looking back at my spread sheet, it cost us $4500 for the brick ledge to elevate the home.

Our pre-construction flood insurance quote for elevation at 9’ for max $250K coverage with $100k coverage of contents was $1620. My home elevation is 9’9 and we pay $710 for that same policy. By raising my home 9” (I understand it would have to be 3 more inches higher under new ordinance), it cost me $4500, and I’m saving over $900/year on flood insurance. I’m in Flood Zone AE, and am only paying $260 more than the max that people can pay that DO NOT live in a flood zone.

Also, during the flood of 16’ the water was roughly 10” from getting on house my slab (we were in the middle of construction). In less than 5 years I will break even on construction cost to raise my home the extra foot (not even including money I saved on another 18” of dirt on my pad), and I have great piece of mind knowing my home would have been safe from that flood. We accomplished all of this with way less than 3” of fill under our foundation. These numbers line up very closely to what Councilman Dawson talked about at the May 16thmeeting.  I’m attaching a picture for reference.

Also, my neighbor who is currently under construction took the same approach but used even less fill and did a larger dropped brick ledge to bring his home to over 10’ elevation. Attaching a picture for reference for that as well (see below).

For my last example, a close friend also built this house in D-2 off HWY 936 in 2016. They opted completely against the 6’ “ant hill” and went with a complete chain wall construction. Even with the retaining wall full of sand to pour the slab on top, they eliminated thousands of yards of fill on exterior of home and the drastic slopping they would have had.

When figuring the cost of construction of a home a little higher, look at these examples and also figure the thousands of dollars saved on dirt work as well. Developers will not mention the money saved on dirt or the EXTREME insurance policy savings.

I also have some question/concerns that need to be talked about. “Chain Wall” is a very vague term that can be interpreted many ways. The 3’ fill max, with this allow us to still fill an elevated retaining wall with sand for dropped brick ledges and large retaining walls. I interpret it as 3’ max for pad UNDER the foundation. FEMA says yes but this ordinance does not define it. I believe we should still be allowed to fill the FORMS ONLY with sand  >3’ as we are still eliminating all of the fill on exterior of home and the huge sloping that comes with it. I’m attaching one last pic of this huge problem I was called about last week.

This is a brand new home on top of tens of thousands of yards of fill that is sloped directly to residents who have been there 20+ years. You can see by the man on the lawn mower the home is roughly 5-6 ft high.  Now every rain that watershed goes straight onto the neighbor’s driveway and patio then sits in their yard for weeks. Where is their protection.

All 3 examples I’ve shown you of new construction are in some of AP’s lowest lying areas that would be built to code (within a few inches) of this new ordinance, because ALL THREE are built over 9‘6. This isn’t as farfetched as some will have us believe. I already did it 2+ years ago in the heart of STA in flood zone AE. My neighbor is doing it now. We cannot continue to idly sit by as we continue to fill all of our flood plains irresponsibly. We have to start somewhere.

Also, the 2-acre article that forbids anyone from bringing ANY outside fill if you have >2 acres is a bad idea. Forcing residents to dig up their property isn’t ideal. Leaving them open to higher homeowners’ insurance for the dangers of a pond, especially with young kids and what have you. Also, before you can use your dirt you have to get a compaction test done to make sure it’s a viable source to be put down as a foundation. What if their soil doesn’t meet these standards? I don’t believe 3’ pads on > 2-acre tracts is creating the problem we have, in my opinion.

Per FEMA, only 18 other Parishes/Counties in the ENTIRE COUNTRY have had more growth and development inside their 100 yr. flood plain than Ascension Parish since 2000, so when I hear developers and engineers who do not live here say we have stricter drainage codes than neighboring parishes… I don’t want to hear it. They’re not on our playing field. It’s comparing Apples to a Hershey’s Bar.

Thank you all for your time. Please feel free for any one of you to read ANY part of this on the record at the meeting Thursday for real life scenarios and facts, not just hearing developers end of the world scare tactics that all land within our floodplain is useless with this new ordinance. It’s simply untrue.

 

Chase Melancon

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