Building permits see increase in town
The Darien Building Department has been in full demand as the number of permit requests have increased 23 percent in the last year.
The number of demolitions since January, primarily in the Noroton Bay area as a result of Hurricane Sandy, has increased.
Since January, 23 homeowners in the bay area received permits to demolish their homes, and many of them also received permits to lift and construct new dwellings. Forty-three demolition permits were granted since January. Nearly 500 building permits have been issued since Jan. 1, not all relating to Hurricane Sandy damage.
A drive around the bay area reveals that many of the homes are not ready to be lived in just yet. Some are in the final stages of construction, while others remain empty wooden skeletons on cement slabs.
Just after Superstorm Sandy, according to Marc McEwan of the Emergency Operations Center, there were at least 30 homes throughout town that were extensively damaged and some were inhabitable because of fallen trees.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall around 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 near Atlantic City, N.J. The storm brought winds up to 85 mph as it passed over Connecticut. More than 7.5 million people lost power along the East Coast. More than 90 percent of homes were without power in Darien, according to CL&P.
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Lisa Mason, the building department's office administrator, said almost 10 demolition permits came through the office in May.
"It's just unheard of," Mason said.
Across Connecticut, state officials said that roughly 3,000 homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, 500 of which suffered major damage.
As a result of the increase in permits in Darien, the need for additional building inspectors has been approved for the remainder of the summer. Two part-time inspectors will be hired to work two days a week until the end of the building season.
The increase in building activity in Darien, according to a memo from Peter Solheim, the building official, to the Board of Selectmen, has increased to the point that the limited resources within the department are not capable of handing all the permit requests.
"The workload in the building department is such that they need some part-time assistance," said Kate Buch, the finance director, at the July 18 Board of Finance meeting. The part-time inspectors will work two days per week until November.
Surrounding towns have seen similar, but not as drastic increases. The Greenwich Building Department has seen an 8 percent increase in building permits from fiscal year 2011-12 to 2012-13, according to William Marr, the town's building inspector.
"We have an increase partially as a result of Sandy damage, but primarily a healthy economy," said William Ireland, the Norwalk building inspector.
A survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research examined resilience following last year's storm, and found that among those living in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey, 79 percent said they favored government funding to help victims of such disasters rebuild in the same neighborhood.
That doesn't mean they're opposed to policies encouraging relocation, though they are a bit less likely to back them -- 59 percent were in favor of state governments purchasing homes in disaster-stricken regions so residents can move to a safer area.
That pattern is similar to the poll's findings nationwide: 65 percent support funding for rebuilding in the same location and 53 percent back government assistance with relocation.
The survey, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, also showed that about 1 in 4 Americans believe they live in an area extremely at risk in the next five years of being hit with a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, severe flooding or fire that causes widespread destruction.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.