Stop FEMA Now will hold a public meeting in Bayville tonight, almost half a year to the day when Superstorm Sandy roared ashore and decimated sections of Bayville, Pelican Island and South Seaside Park.
“Together, we can make our voices heard from Trenton to Washington,” group founder George Kasimos said. “Mayor Amato and I invite Berkeley area residents to get the facts -- and get involved -- at our meeting on April 25."
Area residents are urged to attend the meeting, which will run from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Township Elementary School on 10 Emory Avenue in Bayville.
The event will focus on the latest information about the Federal Emergency Management Agency's controversial flood zone maps, building elevation requirements and insurance premium increases, he said.
Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. and Township Council President James J. Byrnes will be part of the panel.
"We're still working out the specific details on how it will run," the mayor said today. " We need a concerted effort of grassroots and established organizations, public officials, elected and appointed and affected homeowners to continue to make the case on why these zones need to be changed. There is strength in numbers."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the advisory maps in mid-December. It recommends elevations at which a property can survive a 100-year storm with relatively minor damage. It also maps Velocity Zones (V Zones), where properties could sustain damage from storm waves of at least three feet on top of flood waters. Recommended elevations in V Zones are higher.
Township Council members reluctantly adopted the guidelines last month, "under protest," so homeowners could qualify for FEMA Increased Cost of Compensation funds to elevate their homes. Gov. Chris Christie mandated the approval of the guidelines earlier this year.
Stop FEMA Now was created to inform Shore property owners of the hardships they face from FEMA's advisory base flood elevations and to spur Congress to amend the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act that empowers FEMA, Kasimos said.
"There’s a lot of confusion, anger and despair about FEMA’s mandates,” he said. “The bureaucrats have admitted their advisory maps have mistakes, but they can’t be appealed until late summer. That puts the overreaching home-raising height requirements into question. Flood victims like me, and anyone in the 18 percent of America under FEMA’s jurisdiction, need accurate answers before we decide how to, or if to rebuild."
Nearly 40 percent of Berkeley's waterfront areas are currently in the V zone, which Amato has said is ludicrous.
"We're proud to partner with Stop Fema Now and our local organizations: Berkeley Shores Homeowners' and Civic Organization and the Berkeley Township Taxpayers Coalition to work together on this issue," he said.
Kasimos pointed out that flood insurance will cost as much as $31,000 per year for homes in flood zones, which could mean mass abandonment of homes and foreclosures in New Jersey.
“FEMA has already lowered our property values with its fuzzy math and extreme requirements,” he said. “FEMA has damaged the shore more than Sandy did. Our movement is growing as people realize the harm FEMA has done.”
The citizens’ group is expanding its reach along the Jersey Shore and has already held meetings in Brick, Toms River, Ventor and Atlantic City.