, 2015

Supervisors review proposed
revisions to floodplain overlay district

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—Despite claims of global warming, new flood maps for Lancaster County put many areas in a “lesser zone” or “out of the flood zone” altogether.

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According to planning and land use director Don Gill, homeowners should not start canceling their flood insurance. He attributed improvement on the latest flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to advances in technology and measuring equipment and not to a lowering of the sea level.

The new maps are an important part of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) ability to improve floodplain management and to identify flood hazard zones. The county’s participation means property owners can qualify for federally backed flood insurance on residential or commercial property. For structures located in a zone susceptible to flooding, many mortgage lenders require flood insurance.

According to FEMA’s website, NFIP provides coverage up to $250,000 for replacement value of the structure and $100,000 for personal possessions. For those who need additional protection or their community does not participate in the NFIP, private flood insurance is available and is known as “excess coverage.”

At last week’s board of supervisors meeting, Gill highlighted numerous suggested revisions by NFIP to Article 23, dealing with the county’s floodplain ordinance.

“All suggested revisions are based on the minimum requirements of the NFIP regulations,” said Gill. “As such, any modification by...supervisors cannot be less stringent than what has been suggested by the NFIP office.”

While the county cannot lessen building standards from the federal requirements, it could adopt stricter measures, as suggested by Steve Daum, the county’s building official.

Daum wants the county to raise the elevation of new construction above the Base Flood Elevation level of 1.5 to 2.0 feet in flood zones. In addition, he suggested construction standards for the area’s Coastal Zone A meet those of Coastal High Hazard areas where wave heights are greater than three feet.

“This should guarantee that every homeowner in a flood zone will obtain the maximum benefit under the NFIP at the minimal cost...reducing...payback times that FEMA has established,” he said.

Daum reported the Insurance Services Office (ISO) suggested adopting stricter flood zone regulations will effectively lower the insurance premiums countywide, and “not just in the flood zones.”

District 1 supervisor Butch Jenkins asked staff to approach the Farm Bureau for verification of the insurance information before the next meeting.

Supervisors must act on the mandated changes before an October 2 deadline. They are expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the measure September 30.

Meanwhile, FEMA and NFIP will hold a community meeting to review the maps. That meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, September 11, in the media center at Lancaster Middle School, 191 School Street, Kilmarnock.

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