Not so fast.
Township Council members voted unanimously to table the public hearing and adoption of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's new Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps at the Dec. 27 meeting.
"We want the planner and the engineer to review the maps and make sure the data is accurate," Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said. "Residents have expressed concerns."
"It will impact a lot of people," Township Council President James J. Byrnes said after the meeting.
Byrnes said many residents are still confused about how to handle repairs and rebuilding.
"So many people really don't know what direction they are going in," he said. "There's people out there that are still very confused."
"It's just an unprecedented situation," Amato said.
Byrnes suggested the township hold more informational sessions, like the ones held in November and December.
"We've been very proactive in having meet and greets," Amato said. "We had FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Association) here numerous times. "We are going to have to do that again."
FEMA officials had originally planned to release the new maps in mid-2013. But the federal agency decided to issue "advisory" base flood elevations after Hurricane Sandy.
FEMA has not yet formally adopted the new elevations, Amato said today.
"The township will adopt the advisory maps once our professionals have had time for this review," he said.
Berkeley participates in the National Flood Insurance Program and goes through the community rating system. That means homeowners receive a 15 percent reduction on their flood insurance and are eligible for the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) rider grant of $30,000 if their homes need to be raised.
"Homeowners can rebuild to the current flood elevations," Amato said. " However, once FEMA adopts the maps and they go into effect in 2014, homeowners will see a dramatic increase in the cost of their flood insurance. Or they can rebuild to the new advisory flood elevation and save on future flood insurance."
Township officials recommend that homeowners build to the new advisory standards, which will be required in the future when the township officially adopts them, the mayor said.
The FEMA advisory maps recommend that residents in flood zones in 10 counties and 194 communities throughout New Jersey consider raising their homes anywhere between one and five feet on average, FEMA officials have said.
Both Amato and Byrnes warned residents not to complete work on their homes until they have gotten the proper permits for the job. The township has waived all permit fees in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The advisory base flood elevation ordinance could have far-reaching effects of what storm-ravaged areas of the township can be rebuilt and how high homes would have to be raised.
Fourteen counties in New Jersey - including Ocean and Monmouth - will be impacted by the advisories. The new maps will be "potentially more expansive than current flood maps," according to FEMA's website.
The maps also show the high water maps from Hurricane Sandy.
"FEMA believes it is vital to provide near-term advisory base flood elevations (ABFEs) to support reconstruction efforts," the agency's website states
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.