Occupancy permits issued for homes in 'zone'

Marlo Guetersloh
The city of Washington has issued 160 permits allowing residents of leveled homes to move back into their homes after the Nov. 17, 2013, tornado. There were 433 houses leveled out of the 1,108 houses damaged in tornado.

Signs announcing that Washington residents are back in their homes after the Nov. 17 tornado are popping up in the tornado zone more frequently. 

Out of the 433 houses that were totally leveled, 160 occupancy permits have been issued, according to the city’s building department. 

A total of 1,108 houses were either leveled or heavily damaged in the EF-4 tornado that ripped through the middle of the city last year. 

City Planning Director Jon Oliphant said more occupancy permits are expected to be issued in the coming months. 

“There are a number of houses that are getting close to being finished,” Oliphant said. “Definitely, there are many people who are wanting to get back into their homes by the holidays.”

Also, Oliphant said as houses are enclosed with walls and roofs, work typically can continue on it during the winter months when the weather is less than ideal for construction work. 

“We may hit a lull here pretty soon on new starts for rebuilding (leveled) houses,” Oliphant. “On some of those, the homeowners are waiting until spring to start construction.”

As of Monday, the city has issued 813 building permits in the tornado zone, totalling $123 million in construction projects. 

In addition to the 160 people who have returned home, there are 324 houses that needed repairs after the tornado that have been completed. 

Oliphant said there are some houses that were repaired not included in those permits issued. 

In the first two weeks after the tornado, no permits were issued but homeowners were getting repairs made. 

“People started repairing their homes right away,” Oliphant said. “Those were primarily minor to moderate damages, but those are not included in our permit numbers.”

The 2015 construction season also is expected to be busy, Oliphant said, but he added that there is only a small number of houses that needs to be rebuilt that have not been touched.

The city is giving homeowners until June 1, 2015, to submit structural engineers report that their old foundation is still good to build upon or to tear out the foundation.

Oliphant said the city is requiring homeowners to put a fence around their foundations and post a no trespassing sign.