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Township and FEMA to Meet, Discuss Flood Maps

Flood map elevations are flawed, township has said, delaying rebuilding

After complaints by residents and township officials alike, Toms River and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives will meet to discuss the disputed flood elevation maps. 

Mayor Thomas Kelaher made the announcement that, with the help of Gov. Chris Christie's office, the federal agency agreed to a Wednesday morning meeting. Township officials have wanted to meet with FEMA about what they said are flaws in the maps since being released in mid-December.  

"The maps really created more questions than they did answers," Kelaher said during the Township Council meeting Tuesday night. 

Township offices have been "deluged" with calls and emails from residents seeking answers following the release of the maps following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. Others have come before the council to appeal for help. 

"Hopefully we can get some kind of direction," the mayor said. "It is frustrating. People ask me, 'what can we do?' and we really don't have an appropriate answer for them."

Following the current map guidelines could wind up costing homeowners money if they rebuild and revisions are made to the finalized maps released in August. Toms River Township Engineer Robert Chankalian said in a December letter to FEMA that the maps "appear to be overly conservative."

Chankalian said that Sandy was an "anomaly" and the base flood elevations, which are the standards used to build or significantly renovate homes, should be set lower than the October storm's high-water mark. These maps have a bearing on flood insurance rates.

However, the advisory base flood elevations (ABFE) are three feet higher than Sandy's high water mark in some areas, Chankalian said in the letter, which was posted on Toms River Township's Website.

The proposed map expands "V" zones where homes are more likely to be damaged by waves, while some portions of Ortley Beach that were damaged by waves during Sandy were placed in the lower risk "A" zone region, Chankalian said.

"It is hard to explain why inland lagoon areas are in high elevation and wave 'V' zones, and the barrier island is set at a lesser 'AE' standard. Further, people are already questioning, if my house made it through Sandy, why is the new ABFE more stringent?" Chankalian said in the letter. "I think it goes without saying that we need to be as accurate as possible since the financial impact to the residents in terms of flood insurance costs, resale value and reconstruction/construction costs are significant."

Kelaher and Business Administrator Paul Shives met with officials from the governor's office on Tuesday to ask for help. That meeting came about after the mayor appealed to Christie's office. 

"Out of some level of frustration, I wrote a letter to Gov. Christie explaining what was going on," Kelaher said. "I asked if they could do something to help us out. It has absolutely created turmoil here."

Shives said that any information that comes out of the meeting will be shared with the public through the township website. 

"We're really at a standstill. Let's hope we have some good luck [Wednesday]," Kelaher said. 

abc January 24, 2013 at 02:38 PM
seriously people, enough with the bellyaching about "subsidizng" the mainland's taxes. you are NOT paying a higher rate - your property is simply valued at more than most mainland because of your land value. I didn't see anyone complaining about your land value when you sell a postage-stamp sized lot for hundreds of thousands of dollars! yes we are ALL taking a hit because of this storm - but we CHOSE to live here, and the risk was always there. Oh, yeah, and I live(d) on the barrier island year round.
TomsBoy January 24, 2013 at 05:36 PM
I have an idea, in my opinion. What it TR and FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers all get on the same page, and come up with a dune plan. Now that all the powers that be are agreed upon the same plan. Make the plan public and present it to the beach front property owerns and thier Beach Associations. Have a meeting and explain to the beach front property owners and the beach associations that represent them, the terms of the plan. The plan should also include the rules and codes of conduct on the new public access beaches. And who is responsible to enforce these rules. Once the total plan is explained to them. They should have the choices presented to them. Sign the easement, pay, the Army Corps of Engineers to build and maintain the dune system and keep your privacy. Or do what you are doing now, nothing. If the choice is to do nothing then the land needed for the dune system should be taken by the rules of Eminate Domain. No one person or association should impeed the public safety.
taxed-out-the-wazoo January 24, 2013 at 10:49 PM
abc - I understand your comment, but hopefully you understand that many on the barrier island don't use the TR school systems; we don't have a TR school bldg even on the island. We don't have multiple parks (maybe a small one here and there) so we aren't using those funds which are earmarked for parks/recreation; we actually bring in money by the tags issued for the public beaches; we have very few full-time residents so the trash pick up/recycling pick is not as expensive to fund most of the year; we have NO TR gov't offices on the island so no need to dedicate funds to the island, either. And, if you can believe this, in Ortley Beach we have no fire dept anymore and actually pay add'l taxes to rely on Seaside/Seaside Park as our first responding company. And, there is more. So, not sure where you lived on barrier island, but if you did/do, you are aware of the lack of attention the barrier island has been receiving for years to the infrastructure, etc. YET...as you agreed, we pay for these in our taxes. This is why people are complaining. I don't mind paying for services if I am actually getting them. The problem is we don't or didn't until now. Surely you understand this frustration. I would rather donate money to a charity than to a government that ignores me until a crisis occurs. This is why people are upset and with good cause.
S. Bar February 05, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Fema was working on changing the maps prior to Sandy. I say class-action law suit. I just purchased my primary residence home on the mainland a few years ago and prior to buying trusted FEMA and their maps. My house was 1 foot over advised elevation. I checked to be sure I could afford my flood insurance and moved forward. Now FEMA says they maps and advised elevation were not accurate and I need to raise my house 4 feet to pay $3,500/year. Since I did not get water in my house I don't qualify for any grants. I live in a small ranch, not on the water and can't afford to raise, pay $31,000 or even half of that in insurance and certainly can't sell. FEMA is the one who put my in this situation. I trusted them and their "expertise" prior to making an offer on my home....I say we all sue. ...
proud February 05, 2013 at 06:40 PM
This is a GREAT Facebook page. It's full of information and proves that the economic impact of the new FEMA regulations and the willingness of the once great State of New Jersey and the municipalities that don't don't fight for their constituencies will destroy the shore..The ramifications will affect all citizens, not just those directly affected: [Stop FEMA now | Facebook www.facebook.com/StopFemaNow facebook/StopFemaNow. Flood-elevation maps will destroy the Shore. www.app.com. Gov. Christie's adoption of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ...]

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