The Point Borough Mayor, Council and Sandy-flooded residents are objecting to sections of a FEMA advisory map that puts them in a "V Zone" that calls for more stringent building requirements and higher flood insurance rates.
Mayor William Schroeder and council members told a room of about 100 people, most of whom have homes flooded by Sandy, at Tuesday night's meeting, that they are fighting the designation of sections of Bay Head Shores, which is on Barnegat Bay, and a few other sections of town as being in the "V Zone."
Residents who spoke had concerns about the zone designations, building requirements, a possible faulty pipe exacerbating flooding on Northstream Parkway (which flooded badly during Sandy) and other related matters.
The Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps were in the process of being drafted long before Sandy ever struck the Jersey Shore, but were recently made public.
V is Not for Victory
According to the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),the "V zone" is among the "Special Flood Hazard Areas."
Tom Bolcar, District 1 representative of the Sunshine Harbor Association Board, and many of his neighbors, are incensed that any section of the Sandy-swamped neighborhood has been included in the "V zone" since that designation is the same one used for the oceanfront in Point Beach and other towns, or, as FEMA puts it, "areas impacted by three foot waves." Sunshine Harbor consists of about 250 homes east of Beaver Dam Road.
Bolcar contends that FEMA was not using science when it crafted the map delineations and labels, but based it more on who has filed claims, despite that FEMA says the maps were in the works long before Sandy hit.
Patch posed questions about that and other issues regarding the flood maps to FEMA on Thursday. A FEMA official provided some background information from the FEMA website and said more detailed answers to specific questions would be provided on Friday.
Bolcar said Glenwood Avenue property owned by Bill Burke, who was at Tuesday night's meeting, is split between the A zone and the V zone and other sections of Glenwood are in V while part of the road is in A.
The FEMA website states: "Zones with low and moderate risk are labeled B, C, X, or an X with shading. High-risk zones, or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), are labeled A, AE, AO, or AH. SFHAs have at least a one percent chance of flooding every year, and flood insurance is mandatory for properties within it."
FEMA further defines the "A Zone" as: "Advisory Zone A is comprised of the area subject to storm surge flooding from the 1% annual chance coastal flood. These areas are not subject to high velocity wave action but are still considered high risk flooding areas."
The FEMA website page says: "Coastal high hazard areas (Zones V or VE) are Special Flood Hazard Areas where computed wave heights are three feet or more; these areas are subject to more stringent building requirements and different flood insurance rates than other zones shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) because these areas are exposed to a higher level of risk than other SFHAs. More detailed descriptions of all FEMA flood zones can be found on FEMA’s Flood Zones web page."
Burke said he doesn't know if he will be able to afford to fix up his flooded house on Glenwood and pay higher flood insurance rates, if that's what it comes to.
"I may have to walk away from my house," said Burke who has a wife and two young daughters. They are living temporarily and paying rent in Belmar, while still paying a mortgage and taxes on the house in Point.
Waves and High Wind Velocity in Point Borough?
Bolcar said the current advisory map just doesn't make sense, but could plunge "V zone" residents into a designation that would force them to pay four times as much for flood insurance.
The FEMA website also says: "Zones VE and V1-30 are areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards due to storm-induced velocity wave action."
Bolcar said, "How can someone six lagoons back in Lagoona Village get any velocity? How can velocity stop halfway down the lagoon at Ospray Court? How can velocity suddenly stop halfway up the lagoons of Bay Head Shores?
"Show me the velocity damage," Bolcar continued. "Where are the destroyed houses moved off their foundations? Where are cars moved by velocity? There simply isn’t any of this type of damage in town. Our most exposed residents got debris that floated up onto their property. No one’s home was battered by debris. By any existing definition that FEMA wants to pursue, there simply is no velocity damage cataloged anywhere in the Borough."
Because the advisory maps are not the final maps, Borough officials are urging residents to write to Gov. Christie's office and their federal representatives to oppose the proposed maps.
Ordinance to Raise Houses
In a related matter, the council voted nearly unanimously, with only Councilman Robert Sabosik voting no, for an ordinance on first reading to allow residents to raise their homes (see attached PDF). The measure will be reviewed by the planning board and then go back to council on Feb. 19 for public hearing and possible adoption. Sabosik said he had a concern about some of the wording so he was voting no.
Schroeder said in an email to reporters on Wednesday: "Please relay that all and any homeowners affected by Superstorm Sandy can rebuild to their existing elevation now. They can get a building permit. The guide line from FEMA, which we included in our ordinance, the base floor elevation, will only effect insurance requirements. As a governing body our desire is to protect our residents both in case of future storms and mortgage insurance requirements. Again we oppose the V zone, completely."
Afraid to Rebuild Without Raising
However, there are residents, such as Trish Maloy, whose ranch on Middle Avenue flooded, who is worried about rebuilding at the current level.
"I'm afraid to rebuild (at the existing elevation) because I'm afraid I'll flood again," said Maloy, who is currently staying with a friend in Matawan because her gutted home is unlivable.
She said the nor'easter that followed Sandy brought nine inches of water into her house, a clear sign the high water level is still here and remains a threat.
She told the council some residents are thinking about walking away from their homes because they fear they cannot afford the cost of raising and renovating their house and paying higher flood insurance rates.
She's scared she may be one of them since an estimate indicates it will cost her about $50,000 to raise her house.
"I lost a house once before," she said, breaking down in tears. "I lost a breast to cancer, I lost my house because I couldn't work 12 years ago.
"It took me 12 years to build myself back up," said Maloy, who works two jobs. "Now my house is flooded. I don't know if I'm going to lose it again. It's a living nightmare."
Schroeder said he understands why some residents are hesitant to renovate without raising their homes.
"I realize it's a double-edged sword for residents," he wrote in an email. "You rebuild as you are and no insurance and get flooded again or you spend a fortune to raise your house to protect against flooding and then have insurance. Not an easy remedy. Our hope is that Chris Smith, our congressman, can get us the block grant money."
Smith and state officials have said they hope that as Congress releases more Sandy relief funds, the money will be filtered to the counties in the form of Community Development Block Grants as rebuilding aid to Sandy-battered homeowners and businesses.
For more information see the following FEMA website pages: the Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps, the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFE) Toolkit for Property Owners and General FAQs.