Little Egg Harbor puts off action on new flood maps after Christie ruling
LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Township Committee delayed adopting an ordinance Thursday evening to adopt flood advisory maps unveiled last month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Deputy Mayor Raymond Gormley said before the meeting started that no action would be taken on the ordinance and that none would probably be taken next month either, on Feb. 28. The ordinance was introduced by the committee last month to a standing-room-only crowd of township residents and homeowners.
Gormley pointed to Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement earlier Thursday that homeowners will have to rebuild their homes to higher elevations and that the state will adopt FEMA’s advisory maps in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“The governor has made it a special rule. My understanding now is that we won’t have to do anything because it’s a rule as we speak,” Gormley said.
Township attorney Robin LaBue said she doesn’t know exactly what Christie’s rule means as to whether the township has to adopt an ordinance approving the maps or not, but right now it is a state rule and regulation
Township resident and insurance agent Charles Newmeyer said he doesn’t agree with some of the elevation requirements in the maps for portions of the township.
“In August, the preliminary maps are going to come out, and that is our opportunity to raise our concerns with parts of the maps that are unfair. I respectfully disagree that the township cannot make any changes to the maps,” Newmeyer said.
“I don’t think the state has the right to tell the towns we have to adopt them,” he said, “because this is coming from the federal level and it’s not up to Gov. Christie, and I love Gov. Christie. Gov. Christie is not an insurance agent, he’s a politician. ... He doesn’t have all the facts,” he said.
LaBue said that up until Thursday and Christie’s decision it had been up to the individual communities to adopt the maps but that Christie’s rule changes that.
More than 4,000 properties were significantly damaged or destroyed when Hurricane Sandy struck the region at the end of October, township Administrator Garrett Loesch said.
So far, the rough estimate of the loss of ratables in the township is about $20 million, and inspections of properties are 85 percent complete, said Loesch. The total ratables of the township are about $180 million, Loesch said.
Officials and residents have shared concerns over the last month about the preliminary advisory flood maps that place the Mystic Islands section of the township in the highest risk zone, which would include a 4-foot increase to the base flood elevation. The maps could be formally adopted within 18 to 24 months.
The township will also have to revisit its 35-foot building height limit with the new federal regulations, officials have said.
Township Engineer James Oris said during the meeting that he and township officials will take two weeks to review Christie’s mandated emergency rule regarding the flood advisory maps.
“Our main focus is to get that emergency rule and decide what if any action Little Egg Harbor will need to take,” Oris said.
The Township Committee, did pass a resolution Thursday evening to allow storm debris removal to take place on private properties without obtaining the permission of the property owners.
Gormley said before the start of the meeting that there is still a significant amount of debris at private properties that has not been removed.
“We have homes where people have not even come down here yet to look at their homes. I have heard that there are homes with so much mold growing inside that they will have to be knocked down,” Gormley said.
During the meeting, Assistant Township Administrator Michael Fromosky said township Public Works employees have been working to identify properties that will need debris removal. Fromosky said the list includes about 150 homes so far.
“Some of the homes appear to be abandoned and others are in foreclosure already. This is why the township attorney will be so involved in this process because we have to make contact with the homeowners and lien holders,” Fromosky said.
The cleanup of debris at the properties will include the demolition of a property if it is required, particularly if it affects the health and safety of the public, he said.
The action must be approved by FEMA before the township performs cleanup, and officials will meet with FEMA representatives Friday and next week to start surveying properties, he said.
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