CAPE MAY, N.J., March 1 -- Cape May County issued the following news release:
Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton and the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution at their meeting on February 26, 2013 that recommends changes to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
The Act eliminates subsidies to flood insurance plans and mandates that Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which are used as the foundation for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), be updated. These new maps will provide Base Flood Elevations (BFL) for properties throughout the coastal region.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, FEMA released the Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps for portions of New Jersey and New York and they have been adopted by Governor Chris Christie and incorporated into the New Jersey Flood Hazard Control Program.
Director Thornton said, "These maps are significantly different from the existing maps and significantly expand flood zones, including the Velocity, or "V" zones. They also provide Base Flood Elevations, to which buildings must be built, rebuilt or raised in order to be consistent with the NFIP." Meeting or exceeding Base Flood Elevation standards will result in reduced Flood Insurance Rates, while non-conformity will result in high premiums, once the maps have been formally adopted by FEMA as the official Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
"We believe that these changes to Base Flood Elevation Maps will not only create a hardship for our residents and second homeowners, but for all coastal community property owners throughout the country," added Director Thornton.
The expedited release of the Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps has caused a great deal of confusion and uncertainty among local officials, property owners and related real estate and banking industry professionals. While the maps do provide some indication of what future base flood elevations and potential flood insurance rates will be for ABFE mapped properties, they do not provide the level of information necessary for property owners to make informed decisions, given the economic magnitude of the issue at hand.
Director Thornton emphasized, "The current implementation plan and time frame for the Biggert-Waters Act, together with the lack of a coordinated public information effort, have triggered adverse economic consequences of broad and likely epic proportion. The devastating economic ramifications will be felt in all coastal states participating in the National Flood Insurance Program."
The Board urges that the following recommendations be implemented to minimize the anticipated negative economic impact of the existing Biggert-Waters legislation:
-Amend Federal legislation to suspend the four-year subsidy elimination period after the 2013 rate increases.
-Expedite and complete the technical process required to formally and officially adopt the new FIRM maps.
-Retain subsidies at the current rates for pre-FIRM structures and post-FIRM conforming structures, making new rates applicable to new construction or reconstruction only and reinstate the NFIP's subsidy elimination period beginning January 2015, but phase in the changes over a seven-year period.
-Provide NFIP policy holders a menu of deductible programs that will enable them to mitigate costs through the option of "self insuring" for part of the flood risk should they wish.
-Aggressively communicate to the property owners expected to be impacted by the revised FIRMs and increased NFIP rates the expected impacts of those changes and, if possible, provide a plan of assistance options for bringing non-compliant structures into compliance with new FIRMs and BFE's.
Director Thornton stressed, "It is important that all existing properties be grandfathered from these measures with the exception of properties that have received 51% damage and new structures."
The Board calls for immediate action to be taken to engage Federal, State and local leaders to develop a coordinated implementation plan. This plan must provide clear directives to provide for the fair and orderly transition into the new Flood Insurance Rates and mapping system.
TNS MGD130302-4225504 StaffFurigay