Official: Storm victims affected by zoning ordinance have options
by Jennifer Cohron
May 21, 2011 | 3986 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A home in Cordova sits with severe damage after the April 27 tornado that devastated much of the town. Some residents may be unable to place a FEMA trailer on their property due to a city ordinance, but officials say FEMA representatives and city leaders are working to find alternative housing to those affected by the storms.  Photo by: James Phillips
A home in Cordova sits with severe damage after the April 27 tornado that devastated much of the town. Some residents may be unable to place a FEMA trailer on their property due to a city ordinance, but officials say FEMA representatives and city leaders are working to find alternative housing to those affected by the storms. Photo by: James Phillips
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CORDOVA — An official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the agency is working together with city leaders to find temporary housing for residents affected by the April 27 tornadoes.

Emotions have been running high in the area this week since citizens learned that a zoning ordinance adopted by the Cordova City Council in April 2008 prohibits single-wide trailers, including those issued by FEMA, within the city limits.

The Council and Cordova Planning Commission approved an amendment in December of 2009 allowing multi-sectioned manufactured homes in four areas.

Justo Hernandez, housing branch director of the FEMA field office in Birmingham, said residents affected by the ordinance can still receive temporary housing.

Hernandez said that FEMA offers rental assistance for up to 18 months and has identified 13 rental resources within a reasonable distance, or a 25-mile radius, of Cordova.

Temporary manufactured housing units are a second option. However, Hernandez said FEMA trailers can be placed somewhere other than the person’s property when a zoning ordinance is in effect.

“The fastest way for us to place a survivor into a secure and safe dwelling is to look for commercial parks that may have pads available,” Hernandez said.

He said 12 such pads have been identified within 25 miles of Cordova.

FEMA officials are currently working with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and contractors to replace power poles and do other work to get the pads ready to receive units as soon as possible.

Hernandez said those sites are also within a reasonable distance of affected areas because FEMA officials understand that homeowners want to maintain a vigilance on their property .

“We want to keep them as close as possible but in a temporary housing solution. Then we will work with them to develop a permanent housing plan,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said FEMA officials are working to identify other available resources outside the city.

He added that FEMA continues to assess the needs of Cordova citizens nearly four weeks after the town was struck by two tornadoes.

He said FEMA is aware that approximately 80 residents were affected but does not yet have a list of how many need housing.

In most cases, FEMA is waiting for storm survivors to reconnect with the agency and provide the information necessary to get them in temporary housing.

Hernandez added that the zoning ordinance has not stopped city officials from cooperating with FEMA to help citizens.

“The city has been working with us in identifying street by street, house by house who is out there and helping us get the information we need to identify unmet needs,” Hernandez said.

To register for assistance with FEMA, call 1-800-621-3362.