NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — When Hurricane Ian hit Volusia County in September, much of the area was flooded.
Less than a month later Hurricane Nicole ravaged the coast with high winds and waves, wreaking havoc on an already battered coast.
The city of New Smyrna Beach in particular experienced extensive damage.
Weeks later, residents are still working to recover. Questions about insurance, repairing seawalls and Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance are just some of the things on the minds of many residents.
That’s why New Smyrna Beach zone 2 city Commissioner Lisa Martin held a listening session at the Coronado Civic Center Tuesday night.
Before the meeting, Martin said she was looking for feedback from residents about what they experienced and what questions they may have going forward.
However, for the people in attendance, frustrations quickly arose.
“It was pointless,” New Smyrna Beach resident John Overchuck said. “The right people aren’t here.”
Overchuck says he became frustrated after realizing there were no representatives from the county or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at the meeting. They’re the two agencies responsible for approving the permits needed to make repairs along the beach.
“All the people that say no didn’t even have the guts to come here tonight,” Overchuck said.
He says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to save his home, including paying for the repairs himself, but he can’t.
“We were literally feet from the entire thing falling into the water,” Overchuck said. “We just need to fast-track a way to get a yes. We’ll pay for it, we just need to be able to protect our properties.”
First, Hurricane Ian brought historic flooding. Then, erosion and damage caused by Hurricane Nicole wiped out dunes and seawalls, leaving homes dangling on the edge of destruction.
Commissioner Martin said she’d hoped Tuesday’s listening session would be helpful.
“It’s important to hear what people have to say to get all the questions together,” Martin said before the meeting.
However, she mostly ended up fielding complaints from frustrated residents who hoped to see representatives from the county or DEP.
Instead, Martin told those residents that the purpose of the meeting was simply to take their questions to those agencies.
People like John Overchuck say that’s not enough.
“There was no answers,” Overchuck said. “I respect they tried, but this is all under the county’s regime.”
Tuesday’s meeting was focused on the problems caused by erosion. There’s another meeting scheduled for Wednesday night to address flooding concerns.
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