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

  • 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...

  • Isaia Fall Trunk Show

    2014.09.19
     @ Richards

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Nam Cho Trunk Show

    2014.09.20
     @ Richards

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...

  • Puttin’ On The Dog Festival

    2014.09.21
     @ Roger Sherman Baldwin Park

    Puttin’ On The Dog Festival Greenwich, Connecticut the place to be on September 21st for dogs and their owners...

  • Candy Fairies Book Reading

    2014.09.21
     @ Imagine Candy

    SCARSDALE, NY, Imagine Candy brings the acclaimed children's author Helen Perelman, the writer of the wickedly sweet Candy Fairies book...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • Chizi's Tale Book Launch Party

    2014.09.21
     @ Tudor Investment Campus

    You and your family are invited to join Diane's Books of Greenwich and TUSK USA to celebrate the launch of Chizi's Tale: The True Story...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • "Israel and the U.S."

    2014.09.22
     @ New Canaan Library

    The public is invited to attend a World Affairs Forum Great Decisions event featuring Seth Anziska, Columbia University. Mr. Anziska will speak...

  • Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese

    2014.09.24
     @ Meli-Melo

    Meet Holistic Health Practitioner Kevin W. Reese & Take Home a Signed Copy of His New Book! Kevin is a holistic health practitioner,...

  • Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.25
     @ Milbrook Club

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Annual State of the Town Address and Luncheon will be held at Milbrook Club. Registration 11:30am; start at...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • Aaron Henry Trunk Show & Personal Appearance

    2014.09.26
     @ Richards


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport
  2. Fashion Day Out
    September 13, 11am to 6pm
  3. Stars of Greenwich
    Meet the founders of the Greenwich International Film Festival
  4. 5 Key Pieces To Buy Now
    Buy now and wear all season
  5. Greenwich Fashion Day Out
    Greenwich Avenue