Ivan Victims Can't Rebuild

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An Ivan spawned tornado destroyed their home, and now an Allanton family says they can't afford to rebuild under Bay County's new, more stringent building codes. They say they're being victimized once more, but the county says its hands are tied.

An Ivan spawned tornado took everything except their foundation. Now, Devon and Melva Penick want to rebuild their home on the existing slab, but the building permit they need to begin construction is out of reach.

"There was no question that we would rebuild, but we never counted on this kind of problem we're facing," says Melva Penick.

The Penick's foundation lies only about one inch above the water mean level. That doesn't meet the county's new more stringent codes. The new code calls for about 12 inches above that level.

County permitting officials say FEMA offers lower insurance rates to counties who enforce stricter building codes. If they were to make an exception in the Penick’s case it would cost everyone living in the county. The Penick's builder, Jack Whetstine, says FEMA should step in.

"If they want to help us FEMA should let this one go because we know the slab wasn't destroyed. We'll leave it where it is and won't slap the whole county with [a] penalty because [of] one situation. We think that's asinine," says Jack Whetstine.

But regional FEMA officials say the harsher code is there to protect homeowners from future disasters. It's no comfort to the Penick’s who are now left with a $30,000 bill their insurance won't cover.

"I feel like we've been victimized by Ivan's tornadoes, and now we're being victimized by Bay County. It's ridiculous," says Melva Penick.

The Penick’s may now request a variance from the county's permitting board to rebuild their non-conforming home anyways, but county officials say it's unlikely they'll be approved.