FEMA Advisory Maps Could Change Before Final Adoption, Official Says
Homeowners urged to research, proceed with caution before rebuilding
Residents whose homes were not more than 50 percent damaged by Superstorm Sandy may not have to raise their homes to meet FEMA's new base flood elevation guidelines.
But depending on which "zone" they are in, they may pay substantially more in flood insurance premiums in the coming years.
"If you are in an A zone or V zone, you don't have to lift your house unless you have more than 50 percent damage," Township Planner James Oris said at the Jan. 3 reorganization meeting. "You will be impacted by flood insurance rates."
FEMA's advisory base flood elevations - issued after Superstorm Sandy struck - are just that - advisories, Oris said.
"Those numbers could go up or down," he said.
The current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) were developed more than 25 years ago. The new advisories will be based on updated coastal flood analyses and data compared to coastal elevations show on the current FIRMs, according to FEMA.
The township - which participates in the National Flood Insurance Program - will adopt the new advisory base flood elevations after township professionals have reviewed the new numbers, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. has said.
Homeowners who have not already done so should contact the township Building Department or Engineer's office for an inspection to determine if their houses are have more than 50 percent damage, Township Council President James J. Brynes said.
"If it's (damage) more than 50 percent of the value of the structure, you have to make that structure compliant," he said.
Unfortunately, there are roughly 40 homes in Berkeley that are beyond saving and must be demolished, unless homeowners notify the township they want to rebuild, Township Engineer Alan Dittenhofer said after the meeting.
Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the county to demolish uninhabitable homes and remove private and commercial debris under a shared services contract for debris removal.
Even if a home has been deemed uninhabitable and bears a red sticker, residents can contact the Building Department ask for an extension, if they want to rebuild, Dittenhofer said.
If homeowners want the home demolished, they must sign a waiver giving Ashbritt - the debris removal firm contracted by the county - permission enter the property and do the work, Amato said.
Township officials plan to hold another informational session on rebuilding in mid-January. Berkeley Patch will post the date as soon as it becomes available.