BENBROOK, Texas - We’re in the middle of severe weather season and many North Texans are looking at storm shelters for protection. But some say red tape is delaying the installation of some shelters. And during tornado season a delay could be dangers. That’s why they called FOX 4’s Saul Garza for help.
Richard and Marlene Champion have lived in their Benbrook home for 51 years.
“We’ve never had a tornado, but you never know when you may,” Richard said.
When the tornado sirens go off, the couple and their two dogs head to the hallway.
This year the champions decided to invest in an above ground steel storm shelter. Under a grant program, the city of Benbrook pitches in for half the cost of the $4,800 shelter.
“It’s just been kind of a hassle,” Marlene said.
The city requires homeowners to get a permit. That’s not a big deal. But the problem is a nearly 30-year-old ordinance that’s delaying the installation of the shelter inside the Champion’s garage.
“They’re saying it’s a two car garage so there has to be enough room for two cars,” Richard said.
Even though they don’t use both spaces in the garage, the Champions are being told to put the shelter elsewhere.
Greg Smith with Triple M Shelters said his company has filed a variance, but that could take about 30 days and there’s no guarantee the city will agree. Most cities expedite the permits, but Smith said Benbrook has not been willing to move an inch.
During a tornado season he said waiting for an answer can be risky.
“It’s a long time. Whenever someone wants a shelter they don’t want it in two weeks or a month, they want it as quick as possible. And if that’s not possible because we’re held up by ordinances, then that becomes a problem,” he said.
The Benbrook city manager said since March 13 shelters have been installed in the city. None have had issues complying with code.
The ordinance is meant to minimize the number of cars parked in the drive and on the street, thus preserving the property values of the neighbors on the street, the city manager said.
“We’ve lived her 51 years. I feel like this is our home,” Marlene said.
“It’s our garage. We should be able to put it where we want it,” added Richard.
Shortly after Saul started asking questions, the Champions finally got their shelter installed. It’s in their garage, but not where they originally wanted it.
The couple still thinks the ordinance needs to be updated. And that may happen. The city manager said the Planning and Zoning Commission will likely evaluate the issue in the months ahead.
If you have something that’s bugging you, call Saul at 214-468-7458.