Barring some late effort by Congress to delay the implementation of the flood maps for Barnstable County and elsewhere the Town will be asked to amend Section 6 Floodplain District of the Dennis Zoning By-law at May Town Meeting.
The maps have dramatically increased the number of housing units in Dennis that are located within the flood zone. Much of this change we have anticipated for several years, as early as 2009 we were facing significant map changes. There are two reasons for the changes to the Dennis Flood Maps, first, and foremost, is that the existing maps did not realistically track land elevation. We have many instances on the existing maps where the flood elevation is illustrated at elevations of 10, 11 or 12 with the boundaries of the flood zone falling at land elevations significantly below that anticipated water elevation, as illustrated below:
This map of the Chase’s Ocean Grove area illustrates a velocity zone of 14 feet that drops off to an AE flood elevation of 10 feet. The map illustrates that the actual land grades are closer to 6 – 8 feet adjacent to the flood zone boundary. The large proportion of flood map changes in Dennis are related to the need to correct this discrepancy.
The second change to the maps are due to modeling changes that suggest water levels will, for the most part, be higher today in 1% floods than was expected in the 1986 and 1992 when the town first was mapped for flood insurance purposes. In most cases these changes are plus or minus one foot.
Yes we actually have some properties that are removed from the flood zone with these changes.
On Monday January 6, 2014 the Dennis Planning Board will start the process of amending the Dennis Zoning By-law to reflect the adoption of the new flood maps. I know there will be some resistance to this. I ask that residents try to separate the issue of what properties are prone to flooding from the issues brought about by the Biggert-Waters Act which has drastically impacted flood insurance costs.
Lack of adoption of these maps, should Congress not delay them, will result in a number of sanctions, most significantly, due to risks incurred in the flood zone, bank mortgages will virtually disappear as federally backed mortgages will no longer be available.
Essentially adopting the maps as part of the Zoning By-law signifies that Dennis continues to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Should we not join the NFIP after being identified as flood prone, or should we withdraw from the program, or be suspended from it, we would face the following sanctions:
1. No resident will be able to purchase a flood insurance policy.
2. Existing flood insurance policies will not be renewed.
3. No Federal grants or loans for development may be made in identified flood hazard areas under programs administered by Federal agencies such as HUD, EPA, and SBA;
4. No Federal disaster assistance may be provided to repair insurable buildings located in identified flood hazard areas for damage caused by a flood.
5. No Federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees may be provided in identified flood hazard areas. this includes policies written by FHA, VA, and others.
6. Federally insured or regulated lending institutions, such as banks and credit unions, must notify applicants seeking loans for insurable buildings in flood hazard areas that there is a flood hazard and that the property is not eligible for Federal disaster relief.
When FEMA issues the maps, tentatively set for an effective date of July 16, 2014, they are effective whether we adopt them or not. Everyone else , banks, insurance companies, etc, will be using them. In fact the Building Department, under the Building Code, and the Conservation Commission, under the State and Federal Wetlands Acts, are required to use them for building code and wetlands regulation enforcement.
Basically there is really no benefit to not adopting the maps.
Federally supported banks will be using them and will not be able to lend in these areas. Non-federally backed banks (few and far between) will still be looking to protect their investments and will require homeowners located in the floodplain to purchase flood insurance. But, since federal flood insurance will not be available, these home buyers will need to find private insurance, which will quite likely be much more expensive.
While we all need to work to get Congress to resolve the issues of the dramatic flood insurance rate increases and loss of grandfather protections (for first and second homes), we need to take all appropriate steps to protect the value of all property in the Town of Dennis. Not adopting these new flood maps will promote disinvestment and blight in many of the areas subject to flooding.