MARGATE — The Board of Commissioners on Thursday adopted an ordinance that gives owners of storm-damaged houses the opportunity to raise their homes to an elevation of 13 feet without a variance.
The owners of houses that are extremely damaged will be allowed to make their homes habitable and will have four years to meet any new FEMA regulations — the four-year requirement, “so they don’t get gouged by house-raisers,” said Margate solicitor Scott Abbott.
The vote came during a meeting in which officials raised questions on what they should tell builders as preliminary FEMA maps raise base elevation levels in many parts of city and include many areas in a “velocity” zone that requires piling.
Abbott said that contractors and property owners rebuilding or raising their homes rely on the city’s building permits.
“What do we tell them as a city? Go to 11 (feet as a base level)?” Abbott said. “A few months from now, they may need to go to 14 or 15 — and then they’d get hit with higher flood insurance.”
The city may need to add a disclaimer to all permits putting builders on notice that base elevations could change.
City engineer Ed Vernick added that he has been told in various FEMA meetings that the proposed back bay velocity zones are currently “arbitrary.”
“It makes absolutely no sense,” Vernick said. “Beachfront velocity zones (are required to prepare) for 3-foot wave action, but in the back bay it’s 5-foot wave action. They suggested as a municipality, we should protest the back bay zone.”
Abbott cautioned that “I don’t know if we want to pass a (resolution) in protest. … These are people we’re asking a lot of money from. We should protest in a nice way.”
But in the end, for all property owners, if they don’t meet the new elevation requirements once they’re made official, their flood insurance will skyrocket and they may lose their certificate of occupancy, according to Abbott.
“It’s highly unlikely, but they (FEMA) have the authority. The bottom line is that you can fix your homes now, live in them now, but if there’s substantial damage, you’re going to have to raise them.”
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