Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A flood of uncertainty

FEMA remapping in Exeter has many asking questions

July 06. 2014 11:03PM
By Geri Gibbons Times Leader Correspondent

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EXETER — Exeter’s Wildflower Village, tucked off Slocum Avenue, is a quiet townhouse community that attracts those with modest middle-class incomes.

Well-kept and landscaped, residents pay a small monthly fee for services such as grass cutting and signage. But last Tuesday night, at a special borough meeting, residents learned that due to a Federal Emergency Management Agency remapping project that might designate the area as being at high risk for flooding, they might be required to carry flood insurance or additional insurance if they already have a policy.

The changes might also impact residents of the Fox Meadows development, it was learned.

Some residents, many of whom say they are on a fixed income, say they can’t afford that and don’t understand why they need it.

“We’ve lived here for 10 years and we have never seen even a drop of flood water,” said Richard Murray, of Laurel Court. “Now in our retirement we are attempting to move out of the area, and we can’t. People don’t want to buy here right now because they are unsure what the future holds,” he said.

“We are told some lenders would not require flood insurance because, as of now, our home is not in the flood zone according to FEMA’s website,” Ann Marie Murray said, “but, many potentials buyers are reluctant to buy a property which may require flood insurance.”

Residents want to known what kind of insurance will be required as the result of being rezoned from “X” (deemed as having little risk of flooding) to an “A” (deemed at high risk for flooding).

Although Hicks Creek, which runs beside the development, might seem to increase the risk of flooding, in fact the area was not flooded during Hurricane Agnes in 1972 or by the Tropical Storm Lee flooding in 2011.

“Residents are unsure as to exactly what the cost of additional flood insurance will be,” Ann Marie Murray said. “At (Tuesday) night’s meeting, people were talking about high figures up to $8,000, but I’ve also heard much of flood insurance costs for under $1,000.”

But, Frank Maher, an Exeter insurance agent, urged caution. He said he recently wrote a policy for a property valued at $150,000 in a zone “X” with an annual premium of $350. Should that property be rezoned as an “A,” deemed at high risk, the annual premium would rise to $1,500, he said.

“We don’t yet know the results of FEMA’s remapping project, which may become final in October,” said Maher. “In the meantime, Exeter residents need to avoid panic,” he said.

Maher said an $8,000 insurance premium figure mentioned at last week’s meeting was erroneous. “I’ve never seen an $8,000 premium, because insurance ‘maxes out’ at a $250,000 property value,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Also, Maher said the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 made provision for “grandfathering in” properties already protected by flood insurance when remapping changes become official. Grandfathering also would apply to properties covered by flood insurance when sold, with the buyer being required to pay only the rate in effect at sale.

“This is a protection afforded buyers and sellers at this time,” he said, “but it could be reversed at any time.”

FEMA, however, now requires a Certificate of Elevation for properties in a flood zone at additional cost to property owners.

Although Maher understands residents’ concerns about costs, he emphasized the benefit of having flood insurance. “Wildflower Manor is a low point,” he said. “It is possible it could flood, even though it has never flooded before.”

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