Officials meet on FEMA maps

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County plans to challenge new flood elevations

Officials from all of Cape May County’s municipalities met in Trenton Tuesday to discuss the new FEMA advisory base elevation maps and how it would affect residents.

After Gov. Chris Christie signed emergency regulations adopting FEMA’s advisory base elevation maps as the rebuilding standard, many local officials believed the move to be a knee-jerk reaction to Hurricane Sandy, and that it would be ultimately detrimental to their communities.

Patrick Rosenello, North Wildwood’s council president, was in attendance and said that the meeting was meant to clarify questions regarding the new regulations.

“Most people in the county are obviously concerned about the broad sweep and what impact the maps will have on flood insurance,” Rosenello said. “It’s very complicated and complex.”

The regulations implemented by the governor establish requirements and procedures for New Jersey residents and businesses to construct, reconstruct, relocate and elevate buildings and other structures in flood hazard areas.

Because of federal reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program to move toward increased flood insurance rates that reflect actual risk, families who rebuild their properties in a manner that does not conform to base flood elevations will see significant premium increases.

In North Wildwood, the velocity zone, which is at high risk for damage from flooding and waves, has been extended to cover bayside streets, some as eastward as New Jersey Avenue. Typically, the v-zone was only extended to areas on the city’s ocean side. The advisory base elevations for some parts of the v-zone are between 11 and 14 feet under the new maps.

To Rosenello though, the meeting at Trenton is just the beginning of what will be a continuing shared effort for Cape May County municipalities regarding the new maps and changes to the National Flood Insurance program.

“The county has really stepped in and playing a critical role by helping municipalities to share information and resources,” he said.

He said that once the new maps are released, rather than just an advisory, municipalities are planning to come together with the county to challenge them. 

Right now, however, Rosenello said that the bigger issue is changes made previously to the National Flood Insurance Program. He said that new flood maps for the nation are set to be revealed by 2014. While New Jersey is getting a preview of FEMA’s map changes and the effects it will have on insurance, other parts of the nation may soon be having a similar conversation, he said.

“My sense is that this will become a national discussion when they realize the full impact of what is going on,” he said. “Right now, we want a firm grasp as to what changes they will have exactly in each municipality, and the county, and the state.”

Other municipalities in the county have similar concerns about the new maps. In Ocean City, Mayor Jay Gillian this week said “the ABFE maps are seriously flawed and inaccurate for many parts of our community. They are, by FEMA’s own admission, based on incomplete data and analysis.”

The city is consulting with neighboring communities and the New Jersey League of Municipalities “in order to express a unified opposition to the adoption of these maps,” Gillian wrote.

Ocean City was looking to consult with a qualified coastal engineer regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s advisory base flood elevation maps, which were recently adopted for New Jersey.

The new FEMA maps are set to be released later this year.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at

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