A change in Manasquan zoning regulations will allow property owners in flood prone areas to elevate their homes without need for a zoning variance, a prospect that could prove costly and time consuming as residents look to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy.
The new ordinance, approved by borough council Saturday morning, caps home elevations at 38 feet for properties located in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps V and A Zones. Both zones are at risk of serious flood damage during once-a-century storms, like Sandy.
By raising the limit of property elevations, residents can rebuild or elevate their existing structures above flood levels without zoning interference.
The ordinance was adopted unanimously by council.
Previously, zoning regulations prohibited the construction of conforming structures taller than 35 feet, unless a variance was granted. Non-conforming structures are also included in the new ordinance; non-conforming structures - many of the borough's older and beachfront homes are considered non-conforming - are now capped at 33 feet.
As previously reported, V Zones include Beachfront and parts of First Avenue and Riverside. A Zones include the streets in the area of Glimmer Glass and Sims and Rogers Avenues.
With New Jersey having recently adopted FEMA's flood maps, residents in A and V Zones, in many cases, are faced with having to elevate their homes or else face flood insurance premiums in the tens of thousands of dollars. The new insurance rates will likely become official in 2014 when the National Flood Insurance Program adopts the current advisory maps.
At least one resident thinks the new zoning ordinance isn't going high enough, and will have a negative impact on homeowners with non-conforming properties.
While non-conforming properties can be rebuilt as long as they follow the same footprint as the structure that preceded them, their elevation is capped at 33 feet, five less than conforming structures.
Manasquan resident Don Cresitello said his property is located in a V Zone with an advisory elevation of 15 feet. In order to qualify for less expensive flood insurance once the advisory maps become official, FEMA recommends residents rebuild or elevate two feet above the advisory flood level. The feet are adding up and putting the squeeze on efforts to rebuild.
"The intent (of the ordinance) was to allow us to comply with the FEMA maps, but this will require a major variance," the Beachfront resident and former Morristown mayor said. "We have the hardship of having to seek a variance. It's going to cost me money, but more importantly time."
Borough Solicitor Mark Kitrick said the new elevations shouldn't restrict homes rebuilt to size and offered Cresitello the option of seeking a variance if his new property design exceeds 33 feet.