Environment Politics Real Estate

FEMA Rules On Floodplain Insurance

City of Holmes Beach commissioners presented their first reading of a draft new ordinance related to building code and permitting in the city’s floodplain.

The 31-page ordinance is the result of FEMA, (We’re Here To Help You), having questions about code implementation and compliance with current standards.

On February 12th, the city commissioners put a moratorium on new building permits until a new regulations could be researched and analyzed. The March 25th meeting brought to light the draft reading.

The new regulations are expected to improve ranking with the National Flood Insurance Program system, which provides discounts for cities that participate in the government’s flood insurance program.

The intent is to “attempt to mitigate and prevent the cumulative effect of obstructions of floodplains causing increases in flood heights and velocities and occupancy in flood-hazard areas by uses vulnerable to floods of hazardous to other lands which are inadequately elevated, flood proof or otherwise unprotected from flood damages.”

The NFIP defines building improvements in the floodplain as minor or major. A major, or “substantial improvement” is “any repair, reconstruction, rehabilitation or improvement of a structure when the actual cost of the improvement or repair of the structure to its pre-damage condition equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure either before the improvement or repair is started or if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred.” Non-structural interior finishing is excluded.

The NFIP was implemented by FEMA to insure property built in flood prone areas, which includes coastal areas subject to hurricane and tropical storm surges. Federal taxes subsidize homeowners premiums for flood insurance, which is not available privately.

Interpretation of the NFIP falls on local area building departments. The city’s new ordinance is supposed to clarify what is allowed.

The major interest was less to do with code changes and more concerned with when contractors will be able to get their permit applications approved and recommence their work.

Voting on the ordinance is expected at the next meeting on April 8th.

Building department official Bill Saunders promised that applications received by April 9th will be processed within 30 days.

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