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Ordinance Creating Variance Process for Flood Map Appeals Approved by Planners

But granting of variances could jeopardize township participation in insurance program

Planning Board members have given their approval to a proposed ordinance that creates a variance process for property owners who want to contest their Advisory Base Flood Elevation status. 

The proposed ordinance, which now must be adopted by the Township Council, establishes that the Planning Board would function as an appeals body for that process. But obtaining a variance is expected to be difficult, according to Assistant Township Planner Erika Stahl.

"Any variance that may be granted by the board would impact our National Flood Insurance Program participation. So we would have to be very, very careful with what variances are granted. That will be something you guys will have to consider," she told the board last week.

The township is required by the National Flood Insurance Program to develop this ordinance to remain in its good standing. A similar ordinance is already on the books, but does not include a variance procedure, Stahl said.

It appeared as though board members would not be able to have much leeway in the amount of variances they can grant. 

"If you give too many waivers, [federal officials] are going to ask — because you're supposed to be enforcing those elevations," Stahl said.

The advisory flood maps were adopted by the state in January, but township officials have expressed concerns that they are inaccurate. 

The Township Council would like to adopt the ordinance — which is expected to have its first reading during the body's Monday meeting, 6 p.m. at town hall — by Feb. 26, according to the Planning Board.

Board Attorney Greg McGuckin said that the Planning Board's responsibility was to review the proposed ordinance to ensure that it is consistent with the township's master plan.

The master plan does state that the township should comply with flood plain management, so the ordinance is consistent with that document, Stahl said.

Once adopted by the council, the next step will be to determine how the variance procedure will operate, McGuckin said.

The township is developing policies regarding the height restrictions for structures that need to be raised, but for now those property owners would have to appear before the Zoning Board.

McGuckin said that property owners should not expect any trouble obtaining a variance to exceed a height limit if they must raise their structures beyond what is allowed by township code. 

"Clearly, they've established a hardship," he said. A forthcoming township ordinance is expected to address the issue further.

taxed-out-the-wazoo February 12, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Karen M. That is extraordinarily high. Sounds like you may be getting hosed. You may want to reach out to others and find get names/references. You may want to reach out to the AG's office (Consumer Affairs Dept.) and find out if they have any suggestions. And, also find out if those costs are extraordinarily high (which it seems to be) and report him/her for price gouging. Gas station owners are not the ONLY ones prosecuted for such actions. And, over time, the prices may drop. Right now, it is a feeding frenzy. You may be better off waiting. Funny thing, though (although not really funny) re the insistance on using pilings. My property had MANY pilings on it/debris from other homes which had their pilings washed out from under them. So, it is strange that this is the suggested way of "securing" your house....when I saw, first hand, the failure of some pilings to do just that. Many around me, no pilings and structurally sound, still. Good luck in your search...hopefully you can find someone more reasonable.
Karen M February 12, 2013 at 12:40 AM
@taxed-out-the-wazoo, I agree it sounds high, which is why I called another company. I too, don't want to be forced to raise my home, and luckily, our home has no mortgage, but that still doesn't change the fact that if I ever choose to sell it, i won't be able to because of the fact that its not elevated. I wish that I could go with the block foundation, whic has been quoted in the $45,000 range, but pilings is closer to the $75,000 range I've been told. I also have a sunroom and a fireplace and thats where they get you. Those aren't even included in that price, its an additional $8,000 to raise the sunroom and more money to raise the fireplace. Its truly ridiculous. Thsi entire process is making me ill. If I knew back in November that this was going to take place, I would have taken the money, sold my house as is, and went and bought something in Florida, as it is, I'm already $50,000 into the repair and now I'm stuck. If the Governor and the towns knew that these maps were in the works, why didn't they address this issue earlier so people then could of made better informed choices.
Marina February 12, 2013 at 12:48 AM
@Michelle Blamble I totally blame the elite and the associations. We over here in Silverton, Snug Harbor and Shelter Cove would've been better off had the elite and associations allowed the dunes.
taxed-out-the-wazoo February 12, 2013 at 01:40 AM
I agree with you Karen. Good luck and hopefully it will all work out. Southern New Jersey (i.e., Wildwood, Avalon, Sea Isle, Ocean City, etc. ) hasn't been mandated to elevate and they get flooded constantly. The areas around Trenton...the large houses on the Delaware River and their surrounding areas get flooded constantly...no mandate to elevate. Other areas in NJ as well. Guess what...they are selling properties in these areas, currently without elevating. Does anyone think that all the 8000 sq ft houses in Monmouth, Mantoloking, LBI, etc. are going to elevate...8-9 feet in order to sell their house? Doubtful. Keep the faith. Also, remember all of this in the next elections.
Sam February 12, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Yes! Karen M and If Biggert-Waters was passed in JULY of 2012. And it clearly states that our rates were going up! WAY-UP!! Even before SANDY!! Who knew this?? And When? AND when was someone going to tell us?? My insurance premiums will cause more damage than SANDY!!

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