2013-01-03 / Front Page

City maps to exceed FEMA flood elevations

Flood-insurance premiums lower for structures raised higher than federal maps
BY KENNY WALTER
Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH — The city building official is advising owners of properties in flood-prone areas that their properties should be raised 2 feet higher than federal regulations require.

Kevin Hayes, director of the city’s Department of Building and Development, explained during the Dec. 27 City Council workshop meeting that the city must approve an ordinance adopting new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood-zone maps.

“FEMA has released what they call the Advisory Based Flood Elevations [ABFE] and the city needs to review and adopt these regulations,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons to do this.

“In order for homeowners to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, the city needs to adopt [the ABFEs] in an ordinance. If you are looking for mitigation funds from FEMA, you need to be on board with the ordinance.”

FEMA released new ABFEs on Dec. 15, which define flood zones for the New Jersey coastline and advise property owners how high properties in flood zones should be raised in order to qualify for the agency’s National Flood Insurance Program.

Hayes said raising properties 2 feet above FEMA’s advisory maps would provide homeowners with substantial savings on flood insurance.

According to Hayes, an owner would pay $9,500 a year for flood insurance on a building that stands 4 feet below the base flood elevation.

He said if the property is built to FEMA regulations, the insurance would drop to $1,400 a year, and if built 3 feet above FEMA guidelines, the insurance premium would decrease to $427 a year.

The amended ABFE maps revise floodzone classifications for properties along the coast. Many houses and businesses that formerly were located in “A” zones, or stormsurge flooding areas, are now located in “V” zones, indicating a high-velocity wave risk during storms.

Other properties located in low- to moderate risk “X” zones are now located in “A” zones, a change that would require the owners of those properties to purchase flood insurance in some areas.

Both “A” and “V” zones are considered part of the 100-year floodplain, an area with a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. “V” zones also carry a 26 percent chance of flooding during the life of a 30-year mortgage.

According to FEMA flood maps of Long Branch, which can be viewed on the city website, the majority of the northern section of the city — the hardest-hit during the Oct. 29 storm — is located within the “A” zone.

Stan Midose, the city’s construction official, said if the ordinance calls for elevations above the base floodplain, all homeowners would see a decrease in floodinsurance costs, not just those in the flood zones.

Midose said the majority of the area within the floodplain is 9 feet above the base elevation, with the northern part of the city at 10 feet.

He also said the number of properties included in the flood zone was expanded.

“In some areas, the base flood elevation actually went down but the 100-year floodplain expanded,” Midose said. “The advisory map has expanded southward from Atlantic Avenue toward Joline [Avenue].”

While property owners have the option of rebuilding up to the revised guidelines, Midose said that any property substantially damaged by the storm would be required to meet these guidelines in order to be complaint.

Hayes also said that in order to be compliant with the FEMA regulations, any building within the 100-year floodplain must not have a basement and all utilities must be removed from below the base floodplain.

Residents in need of funding to raise their homes or businesses may have access to Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage through their flood-insurance policies or hazard-mitigation grants available through state and federal agencies.

Charles Shirley, Long Branch police officer and assistant director of the Office of Emergency Management, said that in addition to the ICC funds available, monies are also available through the Small Business Administration.

Residents can access ABFE data for their properties by entering the address on the FEMA website, www.region2coastal.com.

For more information on the flood maps in Long Branch, visit www.visitlongbranch.com.

The council is expected to introduce the flood-map ordinance during the Jan. 8 meeting.

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