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To: Board of Trustees

From: Frank Wolf

Re: Proposal for Discussion

FEMA Compliance

Date: May 20, 2001


Introduction

I have tried to make this proposal a self-contained document which is intelligible to the reader. My suggestion is that this document be posted on the web and be available in the Village Hall in advance of our meeting of May 28 at which time the first extended public discussion of this proposal (as it may be amended by members of the Board) should take place. Our discussion of this matter should extend over the summer months with a view to a resolution not later than the beginning of the construction season for 2001-02. Once the Board decides how it wishes to proceed, the policy will need to be translated into statutory language.

 

General Overview/Explanation of FEMA Regulations

Saltaire is mapped into two different types of zones, AE zones and VE zones.

For AE zones, the finished first floor of houses must, to be in compliance with FEMA regulations, meet or exceed the BFE (base flood elevation) for the zone. AE BFE’s vary from 6 to 11 feet. This means that houses in AE zones must be 6 to 11 feet above the mean sea level. The average ground elevation above sea level of particular properties varies but within fairly narrow ranges in AE zones. A house in an AE-7 zone with a first floor elevation of 5.5 feet would need to 1.5 feet higher that it is to meet FEMA guidelines. A house in an AE-11 zone would need to have a first floor elevation of 11 feet. Houses in this zone tend to be on ground which is 6 or more feet above sea level (though there are a few exceptions) and typically have first floors in the 9-10 foot range. Such a houses would need to be raised only 1-2 feet to come into compliance. How much further off the ground FEMA regulations would require the house to be depends on the ground elevation. The higher the ground elevation, the smaller would need to be the different between the ground elevation and the finished first floor. Conversely, the lower the ground elevation, the great the distance there would have to be between the ground and the finished first floor. In AE zones compliant houses will tend to 3-5 feet above grade, and thus would require authorization to be raised only a foot or two.

For VE zones, the most flood-prone areas of the Village, the FEMA rules are more stringent. In these zones, the lowest horizontal girder must be at or above the BFE. Typically, the lowest horizontal girder is about two feet lower than the finished floor. Because there are many areas, especially in the vicinity of Lighthouse Promenade with ground elevations similar to AE zones to the north nearer the bay, house meeting FEMA rules would have to be substantially higher off the ground, in some cases as many as 8-10 feet off the ground, as opposed to 3-5 feet in AE zones. However, as the ground level rises nearer to the dunes, the elevations off the ground for compliance come down again.

What needs to be decided to effect the Village’s Flood Mitigation Plan in which it committed itself to encourage existing structures to be brought into compliance with the FEMA regulations?

I see three issues:

  1. What modifications should the Village adopt to permit existing houses to be brought into compliance with the FEMA regulations?
  2. How should the Village treat renovations undertaken which do not at the same time bring the house into compliance with the FEMA regulations?
  3. What incentives should the Village create to encourage existing houses to be brought into compliance with the FEMA regulations?

I will take up each in turn.

(1) What modifications should the Village adopt to permit existing houses to be brought into compliance with the FEMA regulations?

Proposal:

Owners of residential properties in either AE or VE zones are granted the right to elevate existing structures to the appropriate BFE, even if the structure pierces the current 27 foot height limit. However, the structure’s height may exceed 27 feet only to the extent of the minimum elevation required to be in FEMA compliance.

Any vertical expansion of an existing structure, whether in an AE or VE zone requires that at the same time the structure be brought into compliance with FEMA’s BFE.

No increase in the vertical dimension of a structure in AE zones is permitted except to the extent that the resulting elevated structure itself is not more than 27 feet above grade. Existing structures which will pierce the 27 foot limit to reach the proper BFE may be elevated. In VE zones, a building may exceed the 27 foot height restriction with the proviso that the building’s maximum elevation does not exceed the BFE plus 24 feet.

Horizontal expansions of an existing structure, including decks, whether in AE or VE zones may or may not conform with the current FEMA regulations vis-à-vis BFE levels at the discretion of the owner, as long as the height of the horizontally expanded section of the house is no higher than the existing structure.

 

(2) How should the Village treat renovations undertaken which do not at the same time bring the house into compliance with the FEMA regulations?

Proposal:

FEMA requires that when a structure is the object of a "substantial" alteration (defined as one whose cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure, it must be brought into compliance with the current FEMA BFE’s. In order to prevent home owners from segmenting projects into pieces no single one of which reaches the level of a "substantial" alteration, the Village should adopt a segmentation regulation as follows:

At the time of any alteration costing more than $10,000, the homeowner must submit with the application for a building permit an appraisal of the market value of the structure (not including the land). The cost of subsequent alterations to the structure will be added to the cost of earlier alterations. At the point where the aggregate cost of multiple alterations reaches of exceeds 50% of the appraised market value at the time of the first alteration, the Village will deem the proposed alteration to be a "substantial" alteration, requiring that the structure be brought into compliance with FEMA BFE’s.

 

(3) What incentives should the Village create to encourage existing houses to be brought into compliance with the FEMA regulations?

Proposal:

Any structure which is expanded either horizontally or vertically (in compliance with Saltaire’s current regulations and without any variances whatever) and which at the same time is brought into compliance with FEMA rules will be exempt from an additional tax assessment by the Village of Saltaire attributable to the increased property value for a period of two years, though the property will be liable to any general tax increase which may be levied.