County waives fees to help property flood victims

San Benito supervisors approve up to $75,000 in waivers for 50 residents affected by floods to ease reconstruction efforts.
San Benito County Supervisors approved $75,000 in fee forgiveness to people who suffered losses during floods in January and promise more if needed. Photo by John Chadwell.
Flood-damaged appliances are piled on the front porch of one home along Lovers Lane. Photo by John Chadwell.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted March 14 to waive permit fees up to $75,000 for reconstruction work to assist North County residents affected by the winter storms. The fees include building permits, public works, environmental health, and other charges.

The money would be made available through a budget adjustment transfer or “backfill” from the county’s General Fund Emergency Reserves. 

“We did discuss the potential of addressing or waiving permit fees for those property owners that were directly impacted,” said County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa in reference to the board’s Feb. 21-22 retreat.

This will impact approximately 50 homeowners affected by the flooding who might need various county permits to rebuild their residences.

According to the county’s master fee schedule, the minimum permit fee is $172 and can be as much as $507.

Supervisor Bea Gonzalez said she hoped that $75,000 would be enough.

“This is going to individuals who have lost everything, and it’s desperately needed,” she said. “There are many people concerned about how they’re going to rebuild.”

Gonzalez added that because of more recent storms she hoped the approval would not be limited only to those affected by the December and January storms. Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki agreed that those affected by March storms should be included. Supervisor Angela Curro made the motion to not only approve the $75,000 for December and January but to extend it into March.

No property owners commented at the meeting. 

At its retreat last month, the board approved $500,000 to purchase 11 RV trailers and food for 15 displaced Lovers Lane residents. The families would have the trailers for about six months at the Migrant Center in Hollister. 

The county also requested individual assistance for residents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but was denied.

The county opted to not appeal that decision.

County Counsel Barbara Thompson said, “Technically we would have until March 26 to appeal, but they [FEMA] did send a letter last night that said due to time constraints they wanted an answer by today about whether the county would appeal.”

Gonzalez asked if the denial was for the January storms only, or would subsequent storms be considered separately. Office of Emergency Services (OES) manager Kris Mangano said each new storm beginning March 10 and going forward would be considered separate incidents and OES would request individual assistance.

Mangano told the board the county had until 10 a.m. on March 14 to appeal to FEMA’s denial of the county’s request for individual assistance for the January storms. She said OES staff used the media, emails, and went door to door to try to determine the needs of residents in order to apply for individual assistance for January.

“We did not get any responses,” she said. “Since we have no ground to really stand on for an appeal it is the recommendation of OES that we don’t [appeal] unless there is a direction from the board to do otherwise.”


Related BenitoLink Stories:

County evacuates RV Park because of flooding | BenitoLink

Neighbors helping neighbors along Lovers Lane | BenitoLink

Flood victims share stories, ask San Benito County agencies for help | BenitoLink

San Benito County farmer struggles after flooding | BenitoLink

Veterans and community step up to help Hollister evacuees | BenitoLink

Residents and pets rescued along Lovers Lane | BenitoLink



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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]