The Cost of Coastal Living



Those who have properties on or near the waterfront have long been the envy of those who wish they had. That is until recently, and it wasn’t just Hurricane Sandy that has changed their envy to relief. It was the issuance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of a new map showing a greatly expanded flood plain along with more stringent specifications for buildings in the flood zones. The new FEMA standards change both the flood zone areas and the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), impacting over 685 homes in Greenwich. These major changes were the result of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 that actually predated the Sandy experience. Sandy simply underlined the need.

This is no small matter. There are a total of fifty-one homes in Greenwich currently not in a flood plane but will be, and an additional 600 homes in zones where the BFE has been raised. Of those 600, 482 are in Old Greenwich. It is not known how many will not be in conformance with FEMA’s higher flood elevations and regulations, but insurance premiums will increase dramatically for nonconforming homes.

There’s not just one overall elevation; BFE is specific to each individual property, which may require a survey, and it will range from eleven to seventeen feet, or one to five feet above present flood elevations. Reference to a FEMA map is needed to determine if a property is in an AE zone, defined as an area where there is a 1 percent annual chance of a major flood event (known as a 100-year storm), or in a VE zone, a coastal high-hazard area subject to velocity wave action. (Witness the many storm waves that have battered the Old Greenwich shoreline.)

The most onerous aspect of the new FEMA regulations is the increase in the Base Flood Elevation. Homes with a basement will be especially impacted since regulations for AE zones classify the basement as the lowest floor and it must be one foot above the BFE. In VE zones the first floor joists must be at least one foot above the BFE, and the house might have to be built on pilings to allow water to flow under and through. One shudders to imagine what our lovely waterfront will look like if people are forced to raise their homes sky high on pilings, in some cases even higher than zoning ordinances allow.

New construction in the flood zones must be in compliance with FEMA specifications in any case. Additions and renovations can be made as long as the cost does not exceed 50 percent of the value of the house. (That’s the short answer; the actual formula for determining relief from compliance is complicated, involving the date of the improvement and when the property was in conformance relative to the dates of several changes made in the National Flood Insurance Program, since its adoption by Greenwich in 1977.)

Participation in the FEMA program is in a sense voluntary. To be eligible for federal flood insurance, a community must agree to adopt the FEMA-defined flood plain map and enforce its minimum regulations. Although there is no requirement that current homeowners in either an AE or VE zone bring their houses into conformity with the FEMA regulations, if they don’t, their insurance premiums will increase substantially, and their eligibility for mortgage financing greatly restricted. It may become a question of raising the house to the required level or paying far more for insurance.

FEMA’s program is designed to prevent much of the destruction caused by past storms and offer property owners a degree of financial protection, but there will be many cases of hardship among those faced with bringing their houses into compliance. For homeowners who have to elevate their houses and utilities, FEMA offers a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. If eligible, 75 percent of the cost of raising the house above the base flood elevation is paid by the federal government. The town is actually the applicant and administrator of the grants, which cannot be used to pay for repairs. A separate program addresses homes that have been totally demolished.

For decades the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) operated in the black, then along came Katrina and Irene and NFIP had to borrow $20 billion from the U.S. Treasury. With the increasing frequency and severity of coastal storms, the program was unsustainable. The result was the reform act of 2012 that discourages building and rebuilding in high- flood risk areas and replaces subsidized insurance rates with rates based on actuarial risk.

Planning and Zoning, charged with overseeing and enforcing the program, has assured homeowners that there will be flexibility in applying timetables for compliance, and that insurance rate increases will be phased in over a five-year period. Nevertheless, it’s a good bet that the Zoning Board of Appeals is going to be kept very busy in the months ahead.

For further information contact:
denise.savageau@greenwichct.org, 203-622-6461
michael.rosen@greenwichct.org, 203-622-7702

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • Financial Literacy 2-Day Lecture Presented by Bob Salomon at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.21
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    Making sense of the world of finance FREE and open to all *Participants should pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal on Oct.22, as Bob...

  • YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week

    2014.10.18
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week October 18 - 26, 2014 Join us for a week-long celebration of local art! Showcasing established and emerging...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Paint the Town Pink

    2014.10.21
     @ Lux Bond & Green

    Key to the Treasure Chest Indulge yourself at an elegant but fun event presented by Lux Bond & Green and Anne Fontaine Preview the newest...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Meet Nomi Eve, Author of Henna House

    2014.10.22

    An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth...

  • Susan G. Komen CT Educational Session at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.22
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    FREE AND OPEN TO THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY! Learn about the importance of early detection and screenings Meet the men and women whose work is...

  • Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Networking Event

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce will hold its October After Six Networking event. All are invited to exchange business cards, enjoy appetizers and...

  • October After Six

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Join us for After Six Networking at the Delamar Hotel

  • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

    2014.10.23

    Athome Magazine celebrates Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams' fall collection with fabulous vignettes from some of your favorite A-List designers....

  • Oktoberfest 2014 Greenwich United Way

    2014.10.24
     @ Loading Dock

    Greenwich United Way’s sixth annual “Oktoberfest” fundraiser is set for Friday, October 24 at Stamford’s Loading...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • The Food Network Open Casting Call for Home Cooks

    2014.10.25
     @ My Cooking Party

    FOOD NETWORK’S TOP CELEBRITY CHEFS ARE SCOURING THE NATION IN SEARCH OF AMAZING HOME COOKS! You’ve watched them on TV, bought their...

  • Greenwich Hospital Gala

    2014.10.25
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    It will be a Gala worthy of a doge when retiring Greenwich Hospital president and CEO, Frank A. Corvino, will be presented with the...

  • The Wilton Fall Antiques Market

    2014.10.26
     @ Wilton High School Field House

    Barnstar Productions and the Wilton Historical Society will present the Wilton Antiques Market. More than 80 exhibitors are expected to...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Henry & Me
    Greenwich
  2. Joie Shopping Event
    Joie Greenwich
  3. B2B Blast Off Event
    Greenwich
  4. Go For Pink
    Greenwich Avenue
  5. GRTA Hunt Ball Patron Party
    Conyers Farms