Lucas Point, 2015
Long conversation with architect and Riverside native Ed Davis (203-637-2748) just now on the FEMA regs. Here’s (some of – call Ed directly for more) the deal – errors are mine, not Ed’s, as is any animus expressed towards Diane Fox here.
AE Zones: house must be, per federal guidelines, and dependent on which of the AE zones the property’s located, 13, 14, 15′ above the baseline elevation (my term – not certain of the exact term used by FEMA), plus an extra foot.
That 14′ in the AE-13 one, for instance, is measured from the finished floor level if, and only if, there are no mechanicals below that floor. If you have electrical wires -one foot in conduits, and duct work – another foot, you will end up 16′ in the air before stepping foot in your house.
Nothing can impede flood waters below that space, so solid walls are out. If you have a crawl space, with flow-through ports, more than 5′ high, the space between the ground and that floor 16 feet above it count as the first story. This is true for crawl spaces in all sections of town, but is particularly troublesome down in the VE zone where, presumably, you’d want some height to shield things from the water or if, say, you have to raise your house six feet (because it’s already 8′ above the baseline) and want a semi-closed foundation below the main house instead of lattice work or plain air. Can’t do it and still have a 2 1/2 story house without appealing for a varience.
Worse, and rather puzzling, Diane Fox has decreed that any such 5′ crawlspace will count against your FAR – this is unlivable space, but under the Fox regime, it still counts against you.
Cost of elevating your house. Ed tells me that he’s received 11 bids for four different projects and they’ve come in between $220,000 – $260,000, with one project costing over $300,000. Work involved includes disconnecting, moving and reconnecting utilities, raising furnace, raising the house itself of course, stairways to get you and your groceries up those 16 feet, etc.
The town of Greenwich can apply to FEMA for funds to pay 75% of such costs for individual owners, but the deadline for filing with the town is October 23rd, so if you haven’t filed already, you’re almost certainly out of luck. You can try calling First Selectman Assistant Michael Rosen at Town Hall for soothing words – he’s coordinating all this – but you need an approved preliminary application from the state before you can apply to the town (which in turn, applies to the federal government on your behalf), and the chances of getting anything from the state between now and October 23rd are nil.
To apply to the state, you must submit photos, a current elevation certificate, copy of the tax card and a complete record of all past flood losses. To apply with the town you need that state approval, plus one bid from a house raiser and three bids from contractors who will do the work before and after the house is raised. Assuming you can accomplish all that in 12 days, you can expect to begin construction next spring or summer.
In short, if you haven’t done all this already, you’re on the hook for the full cost of repairs. And if you’re negotiating to buy a house in the VE zone now, and the owners have not already applied, be sure to add $250,000 – $300,000 to your estimate of costs, the disruption of construction, and the end result of a house stuck 16′ in the air.
Then perhaps consider finding another house.