Rebuilding Holly Beach

January 12, 2006
By Theresa Schmidt

It's not easy to find beautiful beach front property on the Louisiana coast, and that may be one of the reasons new home construction is moving ahead at Holly Beach where residents say the price of lots has quadrupled since Hurricane Rita. Residents say 25' by 50' lots that used to sell for $2500 a piece now go for $10,000.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, some wondered if Holly Beach would rise again. But, among the mobile homes and RV's housing those who have returned, some rebuilding is underway and the homes are of a size and quality not seen here before. For Ben Miller of Minden, this is his home away from home. He admits it was an ordeal to get to this point. "Getting permits and putting in water treatment for our sewage and before we could get electricity and then having to have an engineered plan in order to build back. They're built to withstand 130 mile an hour winds. "

Elevation requirements range from twelve to twenty one feet depending on how close you are to the water. Parish officials say building permits have been issued for about six to eight homes under construction. Ben says insurance has not paid for the home he lost and he's not sure about buying new insurance. "I'm building it with my own money. Didn't want to have to finance it, mainly because of the insurance. That's a sore subject because I haven't gotten paid for the last. You know, so what I want to pay more insurance when I haven't received anything from the policy I had. If it blows away again, it's just gone. I'm through."

Property owner Lee Stelly smiles as he talks about what it's like living at Holly Beach, "I love to pick up that window at night and hear that water...wishhh, wishhh, wishhh." Lee and his wife Marie are in much the same situation as Ben.

They lost their cabin rental business and home in Hurricane Rita, and now stay in a trailer while they use retirement funds to build. Says Marie, "We still haven't heard a thing from the insurance. They haven't paid anything yet."   Lee adds, "They should have more laws to protect the honest people paying for insurance. Those who do insure their homes are likely to pay more and have only high risk homeowners underwritten by the state and federal flood insurance from which to choose. And so, while Holly Beach is rebuilding, when all is said and done, it may not look like the Holly Beach lost when Hurricane Rita came ashore."

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says the beginning of the year is a good time to review your insurance policies to make sure they meet your needs. For his recommendations on being adequately insured click here.