LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP— New federal flood zone regulations and an ordinance unveiled to conform with them had a standing-room-only crowd of township residents worried Thursday about what it will cost them as they try to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.
“The figures we see here are not perfect for everyone, and they are based on averages. They will have an effect on insurance premiums and will have financial implications when it comes to raising homes to at least the risk level,” Committeeman Edward Nuttall told the crowd.
Township Administrator Garrett Loesch said the meeting was called to introduce the new advisories and conduct the first reading of the ordinance because the town will have to meet the modern codes in their improvements.
New advisory base flood-elevation maps released last weekend by the Federal Emergency Management Agency call for homes on the water in mainland bay communities and the majority of bayfront houses on the barrier islands to be added to the designated risk flood zones.
Nuttall said Thursday evening that there are about 5,000 homes on the waterfront in the township that have suffered substantial damage as a result of the storm.
“It’s very obvious that we’re going to have a very difficult time moving into the future with these new rules and regulations,” Committeeman Ray Gormley told the homeowners.
The new flood maps have not been finalized and are expected to be completed by the summer, but township officials and residents — many whom are still displaced— are already bracing themselves for what is coming.
These changes may force homeowners to rebuild their homes if they sustained damages in Sandy totaling at least 50 percent of a structure’s assessed value. The homes will have to be rebuilt under the new more stringent building codes that municipalities will be adopting to conform to the new federal regulations,
Thursday night, officials and homeowners discussed some of these new codes that could be enforced, including raising houses.
The preliminary advisory flood maps unveiled Saturday show that the Mystic Islands section of Little Egg Harbor Township will be included in the highest risk zone that will come with a 4-foot increase to the base flood elevation.
The township currently has a 35-foot building height limit, a limit that will have to be addressed in light of the new federal regulations, officials said Thursday evening.
“Township zoning will have to raise this 35-foot height limit, and that is already in the works,” Mayor John Kehm said.
Many homeowners who attended the special meeting Thursday evening expressed their concern and confusion at the new rules they are facing when trying to rebuild their homes.
In FEMA maps from 2006, the small waterfront section of Mystic Islands had been considered a high-risk flood area, and the main floors of homes were required to be built to 8 feet above sea level. But in the new maps, the section will be included in the highest-risk velocity zone, which means homes will face a 4-foot increase to a 12-foot elevation.
All of this left many scratching their heads, angry and unsure about what they will do with their homes.
“I want to go home now,” Jean Velez of Mystic Islands told the committee, pounding her finger on the podium she stood at as she spoke Thursday.
“Why do I have to wait to raise my house? I am homeless. I want to go home now, but my permits have been denied. I have been told I have to raise my home or demolish it,” Velez said.
She said she and her pets have been staying with her aunt, and she has not been back to her home since Oct. 29 when she evacuated. After addressing the committee, she sat down, took her glasses off and held her head in her hands.
During the meeting, Kehm told the residents that he understood their concerns, many of which he is facing himself.
“I have been in my home for 42 years, and this is the first time I ever had water come inside. I will probably have to raise my house, too. I do feel their pain. I am in the same situation,” Kehm said after the meeting.
Fred and Judy Jebsen have been displaced from their home on Radio Road since the Oct. 29 storm, and although work has been done inside the home, it is now a waiting game to see if it will have to be raised, the couple said.
“They don’t have any answers. They didn’t have any answers tonight. They’re just letting us know what FEMA wants us to know,” Judy Jebsen said.
“You need a lawyer to read this,” she said, holding up the ordinance distributed at the meeting.
In 2008, the couple finished renovating their home and shortly after the storm they were issued permits and completed plumbing, electrical and insulation work, but may have to spend more money.
“The biggest question for me is, are we spending all this money for nothing because we’re going to have raise our house now?” she said.
Kehm said there is a meeting with FEMA representatives tentatively scheduled for Jan. 4. The second reading of the ordinance will be held at a meeting on Jan. 10, Kehm said, when the committee will vote.
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