Coastal towns are optimistic that large portions of neighborhoods will be removed from the high-risk velocity, or V, zones with the Monday release of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's preliminary work maps.
FEMA began briefing officials statewide this week in advance of the public debut of the maps Monday. Local officials said Thursday that substantial areas will be rezoned.
Properties in the V zones would have to comply with more stringent elevation requirements. Owners who don't comply will face the eventual prospect of insurance- rate increases.
FEMA spokesman Chris Mckniff said the Governor's Office and congressional officials already had been briefed, and municipal officials will be given a general overview of the maps and their implementation today.
"I know they've been doing work on impediments to wave action, dunes and vegetation on the buildings, so there could be potential changes from zone to zone," he said, but he could not elaborate further.
Brigantine City Administrator Jennifer Blumenthal said the city has been informed the maps could be "substantively changed," but she was unsure of the exact changes.
Much of the changes will come from FEMA considering mitigating structures, such as bulkheads and other homes, which block wind and rain from adjacent properties.
"We're optimistic a lot of the V zone areas will be reallocated to a different zone, especially homes that have other homes and structures around them," she said.
Blumenthal said the city has been working with FEMA to give them details on all of the city's structures. Additionally, it's seeking grants to increase protective structures that would help remove even more properties from the V zones in future maps.
"We have a lot of requests in ... to put in place other items, like new flood gates and bulkheads," she said. "If we get money for those things, (the maps) could again be revised."
Stewart Farrell, director and founder of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey's Coastal Research Center, said the V zone has been "substantially withdrawn from the baysides in Atlantic County," but he hasn't seen the maps yet.
Margate Solicitor Scott Abbott was a member of the Coastal Coalition, made up of representatives from coastal towns in Atlantic and Cape May counties and some communities in Ocean County. The organization worked together to lobby FEMA to revise these maps.
"This is very good news for all of the coastal towns," he said. "We're grateful to the FEMA people for looking at how they designated the V zones. It's a clear improvement."
Egg Harbor Township Mayor James "Sonny" McCullough said he, too, is hopeful more homes from the neighborhoods of Anchorage Poynte, Sea View Harbor and West Atlantic City - in addition to properties off Somers Point-Mays Landing Road - will be removed from the high-risk zone.
That designation can be particularly onerous for homeowners, he said, who could see their property values plummet.
"The financial damage is almost worse than the physical damage," he said. "The physical damage you can correct; the financial damage you can't."
Mckniff said the final preliminary maps are scheduled for release in August, which will lead to between a year and 18 months of hearings and appeals.
"There could be more potential changes from here to August, but I'm not sure how dramatic those will be," he said.
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