A Zoning Thought Regarding Lifting Homes In The Flood Zone

Our neighbors to the far south (New Jersey) are providing me with many lessons regarding things we can do to better prepare for potential storm related flooding. The nightmares associated with rebuilding are hindering recovery. One issue that delays recovery is having to submit plans to various boards for approval before they can start work, work to simply elevate existing structures.

As I have watched these discussions,  I have give our process considerable thought. We too may have too much red tape. A house in West Dennis or Dennis Port could be forced to undergo Board of Appeals, Conservation Commission and possibly Board of Health Review before they can lift an existing structure.  In South Dennis and on the North side, you might add historic district review into the mix.

We need to cut the red tape, and take preemptive action, before a disaster strikes. Looking at a New Jersey law we might be able to craft a Zoning provision to at least remove one delay.

A first draft of such a provision might look like the following:

Amend Section 6 Flood Zone

Amend Section 6.6 Definitions by adding the following:

“Existing structure” means any structure that presently exists at the time a request is made to elevate.

“Highest applicable flood elevation standard” means the FEMA base flood elevation plus an additional three feet.

“New and appropriate elevation” means any elevation to which a structure is raised, or is to be raised, that is equal to or higher than the applicable FEMA base flood elevation, provided, however, in no case shall the new and appropriate elevation exceed the highest applicable flood elevation standard.

“Original dimensions” means the exact vertical and horizontal dimensions of a structure as it presently exists.

Add new Section 6.7 Special Provisions for Lifting Existing Structures to New And Appropriate Elevations

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, except as otherwise provided pursuant to paragraph (3) of this subsection, a person shall be allowed to lift an existing structure located in an Area of Special Flood Hazard to a new and appropriate elevation, or constructing a staircase or other attendant structure necessitated by such raising without the need for Board of Appeals relief, provided, however, this exemption shall apply only to the minimum extent or degree necessary to allow the structure to meet the new and appropriate elevation with adequate means of ingress and egress.

(2) Appurtenant to lifting an existing structure, the existing structure may be relocated elsewhere on the lot as long as said relocation does not create a new, or increase the intensity of a setback nonconformity.  For the purposes of accomplishing meeting the new and appropriate elevation, the restrictions found in Section 2.4.1.2 D 2 (the so-called 40% rule) shall not apply.

(3) The exemption established pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not be available to a person who has altered or is seeking to alter the original dimensions of a structure if, had the alteration not been made, the structure could have been raised to meet the new and appropriate elevation either without the exemption or with an  exemption of lesser degree than is needed with the alteration.

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