Clearwater seniors still displaced months after fire

Evan Lambert reports

- Besides the clothes on her back, Arleen Ristau only has her car and her dog Charlie left after a Christmas Eve fire ripped through her condo nearly eight months ago.

The fire, sparked by grease, left six units in the On Top of the World condos condemned. Ristau says with her insurance money gone, she'll have no place to go at the end of the month.

"I'll probably live in my car. I have no money to pay to keep two places up. I just don't. All of us. All six units are in the same boat," Ristau said.

On Top of the World told FOX 13 the rebuilding project is taking longer than normal because of the complexity in bringing the new units up to current fire and building codes. In a statement, the company says, "the Association is working diligently with a licensed architect in order to get plans approved.  Since the building’s original construction in 1966 there have been changes to the State of Florida’s residential building code which requires the restoration project to meet its current code before construction can commence. Once we receive a permit, we have a building contractor on board to begin. While the delay is regrettable, the Association is using all means necessary to expedite the process as their primary concern is the best interest of the community’s residents."

The permit situation may explain the recent delay, but according to county records, the company didn't submit plans for the permitting process until June 29, six months after the fire.

On Top of the World did not explain why it waited so long to submit the plans.

Ristau says she's asked the company to put her up in a vacant unit, but was told there are none available.

Pinellas County's building services department expects to present feedback to On Top of the World on its latest construction plans and once approved, says it could issue permits within days.

But residents like Ristau worry the construction cannot be completed before they are forced out of their temporary housing situations.

"It's not just me. Everyone. They're all on a fixed income. They are so worried because they don't have a place to go," Ristau added.

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