It never stops

Ledge Road, Old Greenwich

Ledge Road, Old Greenwich

This, from the Greenwich Association of Realtors:

FEMA Flood Maps Public Hearing

The Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission is planning to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed FEMA Flood Zone elevation changes that will take place July 1 2013. These new elevations will affect over 1900 properties. They will also be discussing how to administer the requirements.
Of imminent concern is the 50% rule. [Expenses exceeding 50% of the building’s value – not the land, which is generally far more valuable than the house that sits on it, fall subject to all FEMA requirements – no grandfathering – Ed] This is particularly onerous to homes that have sustained recent damage and may have reached the 50%. They may now have to get variances for building height and also possibly for setbacks since raising a house up to 5 feet will require stairs etc that may have to be in required setbacks.

Another issue is the properties that are being made non-conforming by the new increase in elevation. If you are in compliance now, and will not be in July, the current regulation states that any improvements made since 1987 will count toward the 50% of improvements rule. This means that although your home may have been renovated and compliant on June 30, you will not be able to improve the home after July 1, without lifting it, if your total improvements since 1987 exceed the 50%.

The value for these homeowners should be reset to zero starting in July, but this is not a given and we need to make sure that P and Z comes up with some equitable and non-discretionary policy that is fair and reasonable.

The architectural and quality of life implications of having the first floor of a neighbor’s house being elevated to the 2nd floor level of your home may be quite disruptive to the neighborhood fabric. [emphasis added]

I do so love understatement.


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24 responses to “It never stops

  1. GAR doesn’t seem to quite get the program. FEMA is a three part agency that handles 1) emergency management, 2) insurance market organization and 3) Building Code compliance.

    The clients of the FEMA National Flood Insurance Policy are municipalities. To be in the program (making flood insurance available in Greenwich), Greenwich must adopt the FEMA codes and policies.

    As sea levels rise, FEMA is the ultimate risk holder. They enforce the 50% rule for their own protection. Greenwich thinks that FEMA money will bail out the cost of rebuilding non-compliant structures in the flood zone. Won’t happen.

    • stedenko

      In a few years the north pole will be in Russia and the mean high water mark will be Railroad Ave, The San Andreas and Madrid faults are going to shear and the new Rocky Mtns will run from Minnesota to Louisianna- and thats why DHS has a billion rounds of ammo.

  2. Well said Mike.
    Add in Sandy totally trashed the FEMA base point.
    Prove they are way overboard……

  3. InfoDiva

    Could this be the pin that pops the bubble?

  4. fema has no sense

    I can see tods driftway, but most houses on pear lane and field point circle are so high up from the coast i wonder.

  5. sure, they know it all

    our govt has a one size fits all mentality. fema maps schmaps. the houses are not all at risk.

  6. Anonymous

    Sooooo….. I have an ocean front home in another state that has gone through a full FEMA remapping. I have become intimately familiar with the process.

    Meanwhile, I have been looking for an ocean front home in Greenwich for 3 years. Every time I visit a property and ask the selling broker, “What are the implications of FEMA’s remapping on this property?”, I invariably get the response, “What are you talking about”?

    The natural conclusion is that these brokers are morons or unethical. I have not stuck around long enough to figure out which….

  7. Libertarian Advocate

    Any one who objects to the Flood Maps and new regs, will be a shipped off to a special FEMA re-education camp in North Dakota for re-programming.

  8. Anonymous

    everything on the other side of ’95 just went up in value. yeah!

  9. Anonymous

    Can you help clarify what these numbers mean. Is that your home needs to be xx feet above the lowest point of the lot?

  10. Anonymous

    A lot of the numbers are also going down, I assume that means an improvement for those lots?

  11. Anonymous

    I’m wondering how the realtors’ association got the data, it’s got to be originally from another source??

  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous 10:33, yes a lower number means an improvement. This happened to me and allows for much more flexibility, as you can imagine. In my case, the result was more careful/high resolution methodologies on FEMA’s part than what they had used in the past.

  13. To explain a bit, FEMA uses two flood values in coastal zones – the still water AE ( means A-list risk at a specific Elevation – hence AE) base flood elevation and the breaking wave zone VE (Velocity of water at a specific Elevation – hence VE).

    Most property off the beach areas deal only with still water. Let’s take Shorelands as an example. After the 91/92 storms, certain homes were raised so that the finished first floor was at base flood + one inch, or an elevation of 12ft 1 inch above mean sea level (of 1929.)

    In 2010 FEMA “modernized” Fairfield County flood insurance rate maps FIRMs to reflect the revision of elevation mappings, in which the concept of mean sea level was retired as a obsolete notion that the oceans might be flat, which they never are.

    The poor home owner now finds as of 6/18/2010 that his new floor elevation is 10.98 ft in a system where FEMA claims the base flood elevation is now 11.0 ft, due to rising ocean levels. So the home, which has been improved in value by 50% by the first raising, in now out of compliance.

    The adjustment of 2013 reset the hazard level to elevation 13.0 and the Town adds another foot for electrical equipment. So no new building permits can be issued until the home is lifted another 3 ft.

    When you drive around Old Greenwich south of the Village, you will observe many generators and AC units mounted on platforms at the level of the windows. That is why. If land supported ice continues to melt, this revision process will continue.

    FEMA will not insure property that is not raised and made to conform to its building codes. Flood insurance will be mandatory for financing of home purchase or improvements.

    CF- Bad news for William St in Riverside. Flood hazard goes up 3 ft. there.

    • That certainly guarantees tear downs on my street. Fortunately for the Fountain clan, we’d assumed our houses were dumpster destined for years, but how many other homes on the water will now be reduced to their land value only, even after a million or so spent on renovations?

  14. Anonymous

    All Bush’s fault….

  15. Politicians in the Sandy impact zone are not about to step forward and say, “We won’t allow you to rebuild in a flood zone.” Instead, they will let the mandatory nature of FEMA flood insurance and building codes, along with ever rising flood hazard levels, do the work for them. It will just not be financially practical to build on low land. Filling in a VE zone is prohibited, so not only are they not making any new land, they are taking away the old low-lying areas that seemed to be so attractive for cottages at the beginning.

    On the bright side, FEMA has become more receptive to special filings for letters of Map Amendment, which corrects mapping errors. In behalf of our clients, we obtained three of these last month, giving a waiver for flood insurance required by lenders.

    Contact us at http://www.EarthImage.Net (BTW – FWIW might want to update the link on the right column, which had hard coded an IP for cablevision, which we no longer use.)

  16. Anonymous

    Funny because I was just going to ask you for your two cents regarding FEMA flood insurance and its management when you posted this. Guess I should be asking EarthImage, huh? Good insight Ei. Although I expect I already have a fairly good idea where CF stands on this issue.

  17. Anonymous

    thanks for the great explanation earthimage!

  18. This study has been conducted by P&Z. The quality of the mapping originally was only as good as what the Town wanted to pay for. Pre-2010 in Greenwich it was horrible – almost unusable for realistics studies.

    In 2006 FEMA took matters into their own hands and remapped the coastal zone, but not inland areas. In 2008 they published new hazard ratings, and by-law implemented them for all of Fairfield County together on June 18, 2010.

    This is a Town sponsored improvement for low-lying coastal areas that has been in progress for some time. Like the “green coverage” calculation, P & Z has put forth a chart for each impacted property.

    A lowering of the base flood elevation increases the degree of compliance, and reflects a mapping correction to reflect the actual ground and still water conditions during a tidal flood event.

    In Shorelands (Grimes Rd) for example, the house that used to be one inch above base flood at 12 ft 1 inch, is now at 10.98, with base flood hazard going from 11 to 13, and electrical requirements to 14.0 ft.

    William Street went from 12 to 15 ft for base flood.

  19. Demmerkrat Patriot

    The maps include changes to some of the inland properties as well. I haven’t checked exactly, but the Byram River properties that used to be included are no longer and vice-versa.