Flood insurance maps discussed at commissioners meeting

Published 11:05 am Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dare County’s commissioners opened the New Year considering new county flood insurance maps.

On Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, Dare County planning director Donna Creef delivered a presentation on the long-awaited new maps.

The new flood maps become effective June 19, 2020 in unincorporated areas of the county and the county’s incorporated towns. The date was set for six months after the Dec. 19, 2019 final determination letter.

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In the next six months, the commissioners will be called on to adopt the revised maps for unincorporated Dare County, revise the county’s flood ordinance and adopt zoning amendments for districts using base flood elevation as building height reference points.

The new flood maps will be used for flood insurance rating purposes for policies renewed or enacted after June 19.

Creef didn’t mince words about the new maps. The primary zones used on the new maps are AE (with a base flood elevation like AE4), AO VE, X and Shaded X.

The AE zone is often referred to as a 100-year flood zone. Shaded X is called a 500-year flood zone. X is out of the flood zone. These labels are “extremely misleading,” said Creef. Some areas on the new maps are labeled X and Shaded X have been repeatedly flooded.

flood insurance maps

Planning director Donna Creef. Courtesy Dare County

In her presentation, Creef cited storms that have brought flood waters to AE zones or 100-year flood zones: Irene 2011, Arthur 2014, Hermine Sept. 2, 2016, Matthew Oct. 8, 2016, Michael 2018, Dorian 2019.

The maps are based on computer models that are out-of-date, said Creef. The state was alerted to the problems with draft maps.

About that information, board Chairman Robert L. Woodard said, “it fell on deaf ears.”

Overall, the maps show 41 percent decrease in the number of properties in flood zones.

This decrease raises concerns property owners may discontinue flood insurance coverage.

For example, in Avon village, Ocean View Drive, where severe erosion has pushed ocean water under oceanfront homes and across NC 12, is labeled Shaded X and X zones. The 2006 maps labeled the area VE12, meaning an elevation of 12 feet.

The inaccurate maps force Dare County to create local elevation standards. Creef and town planners have been discussing standards for several months.

For Shaded X and X zones, the recommendation under consideration is to set elevation as if the property were in an AE8 flood zone with first floor living area at or above regulatory flood elevation. No heated or conditioned space in ground floor enclosures. Ground floor would be restricted to parking access and storage. Elevation would be eight feet unless natural grade is eight feet or more.

For existing structures in Shaded X or X zones, ground floor enclosures could not be converted to conditioned space unless eight feet of elevation can be maintained. Provisions would be made for lateral additions and remodeling within same footprint.

For AE zones, suggested is three feet freeboard or elevated to 8 feet, whichever is higher. Example, AE6 plus three feet of freeboard equals nine feet, which is elevation of first floor living area. AE4 plus three feet of freeboard equals seven feet, pushing first floor living area to eight feet.

VE zones already have one foot of freeboard above base flood elevation.

Asked if she expected pushback, Creef replied “there may well be.”

Proposed local elevation standards and ordinance amendments will be considered first by Dare County’s Planning Board, which will make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.

Public hearings are part of the map adoption and local elevation standards process.

The commissioners instructed Creef to begin the ordinance amendment procedures and implement outreach efforts.

A report to the Board of Commissioners is expected in April 2020.