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Cape and Atlantic county towns recognized for flood protection improvements

Efforts will mean savings on residents’ insurance rates

Cape May Mayor Ed Mahaney accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Cape May Mayor Ed Mahaney accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.

SEA ISLE CITY — Eight Atlantic and Cape May county towns were recognized for lowering their flood hazard risks Wednesday, Dec. 18 at Sea Isle City Elementary School.

Officials from Cape May, Cape May Point, Longport, Margate, Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Upper Township gathered in the former school building now serving as a public safety and municipal building to receive plaques for their efforts. Avalon officials could not attend.

The National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System gives homeowners discounts on their flood insurance policy premiums, based on municipal efforts to reduce flood damage. It is a voluntary program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Premium reductions are in the form of CRS classes. A Class 1 community (the highest level of compliance) would receive a 45-percent premium reduction. Reductions are given in 5 percent increments.

In New Jersey, the best any town has done so far is Class 5, which is a 25 percent discount. The eight local communities have all achieved a Class 5 or Class 6 designation.

“That’s a significant savings for your residents as they pay their flood insurance bill,” Tim Crowley, Region II mitigation division director for FEMA, said.

Crowley said each community’s participation in the CRS shows “a true indication of the dedication of the leadership of those communities to the program” and to reducing local flood risk.

“What are the benefits? It makes your community safer, money stays in your community, it enhances public safety,” he said. “The residents of your community know you are working for them.”

All of the municipalities honored Wednesday were hit by Hurricane Sandy last fall and each took steps after the storm to lower their vulnerability to future storms. In Ocean City, City Council amended its zoning laws to require new homes be elevated to two feet above base flood elevation and adopted FEMA’s most stringent guidelines for base flood elevations.

At a council meeting Thursday, May 30, Ocean City business administrator Mike Dattilo announced that the city received verbal notification it achieved a Class 6 discount, or 20 percent. This was an improvement from Class 7, which meant a 15-percent discount for homeowners on flood insurance premiums.

At the presentation Wednesday, Crowley said the 20 percent equates to a savings of $3 million for Ocean City homeowners paying for flood insurance. City director of community operations Roger McLarnon accepted the plaque on the city’s behalf.

Sea Isle City now qualifies for a 25-percent discount on flood insurance premiums as a Class 5 community. This means a total savings of $1.3 million for homeowners. That’s a far cry from where Sea Isle City was in 1993, when FEMA told local officials the city would be put on probationary status, a step away from homeowners losing the ability to buy flood insurance.

Since Hurricane Sandy, Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio said, Sea Isle City has come a long way in terms of flood hazard mitigation. He thanked Pat Griggs of FEMA’s Region II flood insurance and mitigation division for her help.

“We went from being one of her worst students to one of her best students,” Desiderio said.

He said a new municipal building is coming soon for his barrier island city.

“We’re going to expect to build a new municipal building at the site of our former public safety building sometime in the spring,” he said.

In 2012, Sea Isle City approved ordinances requiring all buildings be built above the flood plain and eliminated ground level bonus rooms, which could be converted to livable space. Home buyers here must also sign non-conversion agreements in which they agree not to convert rooms into livable space. The city also regulated against breakaway walls.

Upper Township moved to a Class 6 community and will save $160,000. Township engineer Paul Dietrich said that, compared to other communities at the presentation Wednesday, Upper Township was unique.

“We’re a mainland community,” he said.

Only a small residential portion of Upper, mostly the Strathmere section, falls into the flood hazard zone requiring homeowners to have flood insurance. Dietrich said he was proud that Upper Township has made it a focus to implement standards that would reduce the township’s flood risk.

In 2012, Upper Township required homes be built at higher elevations, required more engineering of new homes, and now has a certified flood plain manager on staff.

Cape May Point achieved a Class 5 status with a savings of $100,000.

“We couldn’t do all this work without the help of everyone involved,” said Anita Van Heeswyk, deputy mayor of Cape May Point.

The city of Cape May moved to a Class 6 status with a savings of $614,000 for homeowners. Mayor Ed Mahaney said Cape May County towns have been working together with other counties, the state and FEMA, to reduce flood risks throughout New Jersey.

“It’s been through that coalition that the city of Cape May is much more prepared for a storm than we were for Sandy,” he said. “And we thought we were prepared for Sandy.”

Avalon achieved a Class 5 and a savings of $1.2 million for its homeowners through efforts like adopting the Advisory Base Flood Elevation criteria released following Hurricane Sandy, its mandatory International Code Council flood vents and strict enforcement policies and its new emergency management website. In March 2013, Borough Council also unanimously approved an ordinance requiring homes be built to two feet above base flood elevation.

In Atlantic County, Longport moved to a Class 5 community, meaning a savings of $484,000 for its homeowners.

“Generally, as a city, what do we do? We provide services. These services are generally provided as a reaction. Here is something where a group of people have gotten together and instead of being reactive, we’re being proactive,” said Longport Mayor Nick Russo.

Margate also moved to a Class 5 community, resulting in a savings of $1.9 million.

In total, 17 New Jersey municipalities were recognized for their achievements. On Tuesday at the Long Beach Township Courtroom, the Federal Emergency Management Agency honored Bay Head, Beach Haven, Berkeley Township, Hazlet, Lavallette, Long Beach Township, Mantoloking, Middletown Township and Stafford Township.

Communities earn points toward their rating based on 18 creditable activities in four categories: public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction and flood preparedness.

Ten New Jersey municipalities (Sea Isle City, Avalon, Beach Haven, Bedminster, Brigantine, Long Beach Township, Longport, Mantoloking, Pompton Lakes and Stafford Township) are Class 5, the highest level currently in the state. The 61 communities in the program have saved a total of $17 million.

In September, North Wildwood’s City Council voted to approve a contract with Sal DeSimone as a research assistant to the city and to work to find ways it can improve its CRS rating. Over the next two years, the city hopes to move from a Class 7 to a Class 5.

Preserving open space, setting up a flood insurance committee, and completing hazard mitigation projects will help North Wildwood achieve this, Mayor Bill Henfey said at the time.

Wildwood Crest is also hoping to reduce flood insurance for its residents by improving its CRS rating. In October, the Crest Borough Commission introduced an ordinance to adopt the best available flood hazard data for elevation of structures in the borough, which will earn the community points. The ordinance also calls for two feet of freeboard in addition to the base flood elevation.

Wildwood Crest’s current discount under the CRS is 10 percent. It is a Class 8 community, according the most recent data from FEMA.

At the Tuesday, Dec. 17 meeting of the Stone Harbor Council, administrator Jill Gougher announced that Stone Harbor has improved from a Class 7 to a Class 6 designation. However, the borough supplied additional information, which may take it to a Class 5.  Some of the initiatives initiated in Stone Harbor include a new building ordinance along with a better communication system to alert residents to trouble.

Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio addresses attendees during a ceremony hosted by FEMA Region II officials recognizing the efforts of several communities to reduce flood hazard risk at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio addresses attendees during a ceremony hosted by FEMA Region II officials recognizing the efforts of several communities to reduce flood hazard risk at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.

Tim Crowley, Region II mitigation division director for FEMA, talks about the benefits of participating in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System. Tim Crowley, Region II mitigation division director for FEMA, talks about the benefits of participating in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System.

Anita Van Heeswyk, deputy mayor of Cape May Point, accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the borough’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Anita Van Heeswyk, deputy mayor of Cape May Point, accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the borough’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.

Longport Mayor Nick Russo accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the borough’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Longport Mayor Nick Russo accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the borough’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.

Jim Galantino, Margate’s code enforcement officer, accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Jim Galantino, Margate’s code enforcement officer, accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.

Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio, members of council and city staff accept a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s move to a Class 5 community. Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio, members of council and city staff accept a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s move to a Class 5 community.

Upper Township engineer Paul Dietrich accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the township’s flood hazard mitigation efforts. Upper Township engineer Paul Dietrich accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the township’s flood hazard mitigation efforts.

Ocean City director of community operations Roger McLarnon accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18. Ocean City director of community operations Roger McLarnon accepts a plaque from FEMA Region II officials recognizing the city’s efforts to reduce flood hazard risk during a ceremony at Sea Isle City Elementary School Dec. 18.


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