Belmar Planning Board Awaiting FEMA Regulations to Move Forward

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Belmar Planning Board Committee Chairman Ed Windas (center) begins March 18 meeting. Committee members Robert Forte left) and Councilman Brian Magovern (right).

The wintry, wet weather didn’t stop some 20 residents from attending the important Planning Board meeting on Monday, March 18. The main agenda items were to review the ordinance on height limitations and post Sandy FEMA and insurance issues. Also, the renting of trailers in lieu of the former concession structures and the review of the boardwalk redevelopment study.

The meeting came to order from Chairman Ed Windas and was taken over by planning board attorney, Douglas Kovats. Kovats began by discussing the FEMA high impact zones and building up to a certain elevation. “The first step is to establish an ordinance that establishes elevation based on new flood zones. The base elevation FEMA will decide.”

However, the FEMA flood zones are not finalized and elevation requirements are not yet set. “The preliminary flood maps are just that, preliminary,” said Board Member Thea Sheridan. “We can use them as a guideline, but they’re not final.”

Some residents expressed concern on FEMA’s flood zone recommendations. One homeowner said she never even had water in her basement until Hurricane Sandy, and now her home is being classified in the A Zone.

According to FEMA, the most significant zones are V, A and X. V Zones are high hazard zones that are impacted by ocean waves (a 3-foot breaking wave) typically beachfront homes. V Zones typically have more stringent building requirements than other zones and are the homes that need to be most concerned with the rebuilding.

A Zones are also high hazard zones, they are subject to rising waters and are generally near a body of water. The final zone is the X Zone, which present moderate risk of flood damage.

“The elevations, I believe, are staying the same, except in the V zones,” said Sheridan. But that cannot be confirmed until FEMA finalizes the zones in the coming months. Leaving many residents unsure as to what to do about elevating.

“Until we know the absolute requirements, zoning variances may be needed if residents want to raise their homes,” said Kovats. “Residents will have to show damage and hardship. The borough doesn’t want residents raising their property just to enhance their view.”

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Planning Board Attorney, Douglas Kovats, Esq. (center) explaining zoning elevations. (Left) April Claudio, Planning Board Secretary.

On new height elevation, “Structure and stories won’t change. A two-story home will remain at 35 feet vertically, but if base flood elevations change to ten feet, the vertical height of a home will then be 45 feet from the ground up,” Kovats said. “We don’t have exact values right now, but it’s imperative to follow them. Insurance premiums are expected to rise, but we’re hoping not by much for those residents that follow the regulations.”

In an article dated Feb 5, from the Brick Patch, written by Edward Van Embden, “Christie Stands Firm on FEMA Flood maps,” Embden highlights the importance of adhering to required elevation levels. He concludes that those homeowners that don’t follow and adhere to the requirements, will be subject to extremely high insurance premiums. For those in V Zones, insurance can be as high as $30,000 annually.

The next topic of concern was raised by Windas, regarding the home and building facades. “After the homes and building are elevated we have to come up with a standard for all. We have to figure out how to build up elevations that are aesthetically pleasing to look at. The facades must look natural.”

All board members agreed to reference this to the mayor and council.

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Planning Board Committee listening to Douglas Kovats, Esq. From left to right, Rick Meyer, Thea Sheridan, Robert Forte, Ed WIndas, Councilman Brian Magovern, Sam Kaye and Chris Hoffman.

Also discussed, the boardwalk is still on target to be finished by Memorial weekend. Though the boardwalk will be ready, the boardwalk pavilions were demolished from the storm. “There isn’t any time to rebuild for this summer season,” board member Robert Forte said. “The Borough Council just approved renting three food trailers, which will cost the borough $131,250 this year.”

A few residents questioned the cost of the trailers and whether vendors were able to rent their own trailers saving Belmar money. Those concerns will be followed up with the council.

Meeting was adjourned at 8:27 p.m.

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