While Hurricane Katrina looms larger in most people’s minds than Hurricane Isabel, residents of Belle View and New Alexandria still wince when they remember the storm that ravaged the area.
They are the ones who lost possessions or had homes severely damaged by the September 2003 hurricane.
It was a shock to those residents when earlier this year about 140 Belle View Condominium owners were asked to repay $195,799 of the money the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid out to them after the storm. The homeowners are now breathing easier since the demand was rescinded.
“I’m obviously delighted and relieved that FEMA has rescinded the demand letters. That’s something that never should have happened in the first place and demonstrates how the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing at FEMA," said Stephen Snell, a condominium owner. "It’s too really too bad when you think of all the aggravation and wasted time and energy that resulted from it. I am certainly very grateful to Jim Moran for this assistance in this matter—he’s done a very good job.”
Upset condominium owners asked U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) for help on the matter.
According to a statement released by Moran's office, the agency is creating a process to refund homeowners who have already complied with FEMA’s request. The statement goes on to read that in a small number of cases, if residents received both FEMA assistance and an insurance payment for losses or repairs, they may not get their money back from FEMA.
“BelleView residents have been through a lot since 2003,” Moran said. “Many had their homes severely damaged by floods, only to realize their homeowners’ insurance was inadequate. FEMA stepped up early and worked to provide these residents the highest amount of compensation allowed under federal law to help cover the damage."
Moran said he was proud that after many months of negotiations, FEMA agreed that the residents should be allowed to keep the federal assistance they received.
The BelleView Condominiums sustained nearly $6 million in damages from Hurricane Isabel, which struck Northern Virginia in September of 2003. The 900-unit condominium complex houses roughly 2,200 residents, Moran said.
New Alexandria resident Deb Sell said that nine residents from New Alexandria received letters from FEMA asking for the money back. Once the agency realized these were single-family detached homes they corrected the mistake. New letters went out to those who got the request for repayment telling them they were not required to repay.
Glenn Fatzinger holds the title for his daughter’s condominium in Belle View, and when he first received the letter from FEMA asking for repayment he was so upset that he initially refused to repay. Fatzinger finally decided to pay because he was concerned that it would interfere with property taxes for his daughter's unit. Now he’s waiting to get reimbursed.
“Show me the money. It’s nice to hear that [they’re going to repay], but it will be months before we see the money," Fatzinger said. "The agency is obviously badly managed.”