Township Council Postpones Adoption Of New FEMA Flood Elevation Guidelines

Township professionals need more time to study advisory base flood elevations, mayor says

Not so fast.

Township Council members voted unanimously to table the public hearing and adoption of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's new Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps at the Dec. 27 meeting.

"We want the planner and the engineer to review the maps and make sure the data is accurate," Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said. "Residents have expressed concerns."

"It will impact a lot of people," Township Council President James J. Byrnes said after the meeting.

Byrnes said many residents are still confused about how to handle repairs and rebuilding.

"So many people really don't know what direction they are going in," he said. "There's people out there that are still very confused."

"It's just an unprecedented situation," Amato said.

Byrnes suggested the township hold more informational sessions, like the ones held in November and December.

"We've been very proactive in having meet and greets," Amato said. "We had FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Association) here numerous times. "We are going to have to do that again."

FEMA officials had originally planned to release the new maps in mid-2013. But the federal agency decided to issue "advisory" base flood elevations after Hurricane Sandy.

FEMA has not yet formally adopted the new elevations, Amato said today.

"The township will adopt the advisory maps once our professionals have had time for this review," he said.

Berkeley participates in the National Flood Insurance Program and goes through the community rating system. That means homeowners receive a 15 percent reduction on their flood insurance and are eligible for the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) rider grant of $30,000 if their homes need to be raised.

"Homeowners can rebuild to the current flood elevations," Amato said. " However, once FEMA adopts the maps and they go into effect in 2014, homeowners will see a dramatic increase in the cost of their flood insurance. Or they can rebuild to the new advisory flood elevation and save on future flood insurance."

Township officials recommend that homeowners build to the new advisory standards, which will be required in the future when the township officially adopts them, the mayor said.

The FEMA advisory maps recommend that residents in flood zones in 10 counties and 194 communities throughout New Jersey consider raising their homes anywhere between one and five feet on average, FEMA officials have said.

Both Amato and Byrnes warned residents not to complete work on their homes until they have gotten the proper permits for the job. The township has waived all permit fees in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The advisory base flood elevation ordinance could have far-reaching effects of what storm-ravaged areas of the township can be rebuilt and how high homes would have to be raised.

Fourteen counties in New Jersey - including Ocean and Monmouth - will be impacted by the advisories. The new maps will be "potentially more expansive than current flood maps," according to FEMA's website.

The maps also show the high water maps from Hurricane Sandy.

"FEMA believes it is vital to provide near-term advisory base flood elevations (ABFEs) to support reconstruction efforts," the agency's website states

The current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) were developed more than 25 years ago. The new advisories will be based on updated coastal flood analyses and data compared to coastal elevations show on the current FIRMs, according to FEMA.

New "Advisory Base Flood Elevations" are posted to this interactive map. More resources are available on FEMA's ABFE page for New Jersey and New York.

kory rabinowitz December 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM
most of all of us are displaced.We need direction fast so we can get all our familys together again.
TerriLynn December 28, 2012 at 01:14 PM
This just delays the repair and rebuilding for us homeowners. Supposedly the town wants us all to start recovering but we wont if they keep delaying. I am waiting for the engineer to call me back since I can get what we need to raise the house. Seems like all we''re doing is waiting. We are living in our home with open walls, no furnace, etc but feel more fortunate than others. Its frustrating for all of us no matter what situation.
Jackthebear December 28, 2012 at 01:38 PM
The following post is my understanding and my understanding alone. I have no professional knowledge what so ever: Even if the township adopts the advisory map, it will take a lot of time to legally re-write all of the associated codes according to those benchmarks. When the new codes are in place, they can not be enforced retroactively. There is an existing set of codes and elevations in place today. We are all required to build to those standards if the costs to rebuild our homes is more than 50% of the assessed value which is shown as the amount on our tax bill next to the (I) which stands for Inprovements (not land). However John brings up a great point, the insurance companies are not bound by our local codes. At this point I am going to get an engineer to "assume" a safe elevation that will satisfy any insurance minimum and then rebuild 2' above that. I don't think added elevation will automatically mean added cost.
grace December 29, 2012 at 09:52 PM
is it an engineer i call then to see if we should raise our home the 3ft or if we are ok at the height we are now? had flooding just missed floor by 2 inches garage shed etc and crawl space were bad...but we consider ourselves lucky and will deal with expense of new heat air conditioners etc
foggyworld March 01, 2013 at 09:53 PM
The problem with the new FEMA maps is that they will not show the soon to start dune building of the barrier islands which once in place should put western Bay areas in lower than V zones. The other troublesome thing is that if everyone built up to the sky in V zones, they still would forever be in for tremendously high flood insurance costs which as we saw this time, didn't pay off very well. There doesn't seem to be any way to go back to Fema and say, Look, we have changed things and therefore want to see our folks put in more appropriate zones. People will be paying out of their own pockets for most of these projects and are then supposed to fork up higher property taxes and unreal flood insurance premiums. It forces the middle class out because we will assume nothing but higher costs and no reward for good behavior.


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