By WIL FULTON
Like Rumson and Sea Bright before it, Little Silver adopted new federal elevation standards for homes in flood zones Monday night, only this time with a recommendation that homeowners go higher.
By a unanimous vote, the borough council adopted an ordinance amendment that would require all new homes, and existing homes that suffered substantial water damage during Hurricane Sandy, to follow the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new ABFE advisory base flood elevation guidelines, plus a foot for extra protection.
The fact is, this doesnt change a whole lot for our current residents, Mayor Bob Neff said after the meeting. In Little Silver, what weve always done is taken the flood elevations that the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] puts out, and add one foot.
“What this ordinance is doing is adopting a new and revised base flood elevation level, FEMAs ABFEs, and adding one foot, which we have always done. It doesnt affect standing homes that werent substantially damaged by the storm.
In addition to the required ABFE-plus-one standard, the ordinance recommends that new homes be built four feet over the ABFE, in order to get the best possible insurance rates and reduce flood damages in future storms.
During the storm, we had instances where water inside houses rose two feet above the ABFE measurement, and we considered making the plus-four measurement the standard,” Neff said. “But we went with [borough Engineer] Greg Blashs professional opinion to require the plus-one, and only recommend implementing the plus-four. Neff said.
My thinking is that going to a plus-four would make people go through expenses they necessarily dont have to. By putting our recommendation out there, we leave it up to the homeowner to decide which route to go, without forcing their hand.
Though the ABFEs aren’t forced upon towns, Neff said the council decided to implement them in order avoid the type of devastation that occurred in Little Silver during Sandy.
Every town has a right to ignore the new standards – but its at your own peril, he said. I think most towns will adopt them, because they wont want new homes to be built below the new guidelines and have to deal with flooding, flood debris, cleanup, and all the public hazards that go along with it. Its about ensuring the public welfare.
Existing houses without substantial damages will not be required to elevate or raise their houses to comply with the newly passed ordinance.