Denham Springs explains steps necessary for getting a construction permit

Rick Foster, head of the City of Denham Springs Office of Planning & Development, explained, “First of all, anyone who had more than 18 inches of water get into any building which is in the city during the recent flood must obtain a city building permit. If you got less than 18 inches of water, you may go ahead and start rebuilding as soon as your building is cleaned and dried out.
The city discovered recently that some people inside the city limits of Denham Springs who had more than 18 inches were starting to rebuild after getting a parish permit, which is not allowed.
“If your home or other building is NOT inside any town’s or city’s limits, then you get your construction/repair permit from the parish,” Foster explained. “But if your property is within a city, you have to get your permit from that city.
He continued, “Any permits issued by the parish and any parish inspections that have been made for buildings inside Denham Springs are invalid, and any work that has been done is illegal. If a Denham Springs resident has a parish-issued permit, they must stop work immediately and file for a city permit.”
To obtain a city permit, people need three things.
Foster stated, “Applicants must provide (1) a statement showing the market value of the home or other building; (2) a statement from a registered home improvement or licensed contractor estimating the cost of anticipated repairs necessary to make the house livable and the pre-damaged condition; and (3) a properly filled-out city building permit application.
He added, “Most people are going to the sheriff’s office and obtaining a copy of their 2015 tax notice, which is acceptable to prove their building’s market value, but many homeowners are finding that their homes are undervalued on those statements.”
Owners can request that the parish tax assessor reassess their house, but they should be aware that doing so may increase the amount of taxes they owe. They should also be aware that the tax notice is not the only document that is acceptable.
“They may also get a Realtor to provide them with a market analysis or appraisal of the value of their home or commercial building,” Foster said. “Owners should note that the appraisal should state that the value is of the structure only, not including the property.”
The statement from the contractor for the cost of repairs should be for restoring the basic structure to a condition in which residents can live. According to Foster, that means floors, walls, ceilings, electricity, plumbing, a bathroom and a kitchen. They should not include any upgrades that the homeowner might anticipate making.
This is important because any home whose repair costs equal more than half of the structure’s value is declared to be “substantially damaged” is required to be mitigated against future flood damage. If the estimated repairs are less than 50 percent of its value, the structure may be repaired as-is.
Foster elaborated, “A lot of people talk about elevating like it is a dirty word, but in some cases having the structure declared ‘substantially damaged,’ and then elevating it may be in their best interest. If a structure is declared ‘substantially damaged,’ the owner will then have access to up to $30,000 from the ICC (Increased Cost of Compliance) portion of their flood insurance policy for mitigation/elevation, and they will become eligible for future grant money to assist in the elevation process. Elevating a structure reduces flood insurance premiums and flood risks.
“Most people think that every house would have to be elevated 10 or 12 feet, but that is not the case. Depending on the structure’s location, you may have to elevate as little as three or four feet for compliance. Elevating a home can allow you to improve the appearance of the house and may give you extra usable outdoor space underneath the structure if you have to, or decide to, elevate to a greater height. Elevating may also possibly increase your home’s value as well as make it easier to sell in the future if it is raised above the level it flooded and has low flood insurance rates.
“The only thing is,” he added, “the City cannot speak for FEMA and say someone will get elevation assistance or how much it would be, and we do not know how long it would take for FEMA to grant such assistance funds. I am just cautioning homeowners to consider all the ramifications of elevating versus not elevating just so that they are sure they are doing what is in their best interest. We want citizens to weigh all options and be able to make educated decisions regarding their property.”
The city has made the permit process as simple as possible, with a one-page permit application that can be filled out in minutes, and city permit office workers are glad to assist applicants if they have questions. The application can be filled out by the homeowner or the contractor, and the city is waiving permit fees.
“Once a permit is applied for, we will review it to ensure all submitted documentation is in order. We then issue the permit and send a city inspector out, in most cases, in one or two days,” Foster said. “No work is to be done on the structure other than cleanup and mold/mildew treatment before the inspection. The reason we are sending out an inspector before any repair work is done is to make sure the owner doesn’t spend money unnecessarily and that the project complies with all regulations. No one wants to deal with noncompliant construction, including property owners. By having us come in before construction starts, we can point out any problems to the owner before the walls are closed.”
The city of Denham Springs permit office phone number at Old City Hall is 225-667-7512, and is currently located at 115 Mattie St. It will move to the old Capital One location soon.