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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. 

John January 23, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Very clear who Tom's River is most concerned about. The barrier island is clearly being sacrificed at the benefit of the mainland. The Two engineer states that he's concerned about the mainland lagoon properties new flood designations while throwing the island residents under the FEMA flood map bus. Wake up island residents, we need our own government!
TomsBoy January 23, 2013 at 02:57 PM
The sand dunes that were in place before Sandy hit Ortley Beach were of poor design. By the time Sandy hit Ortley Beach the dunes were either gone or not intact enough to do the job they were intended to do. That I feel is the reason Ortley Beach was so damaged and the high watermark so extreme. To base the flood levels for the storm on a faulty daune system is an injustice to all Ortley Beach property owners. We are being forced to pay higher flood insurance rates base on a poorly designed daune system. It is time for TR's officials to stand up and take the blame for the dunes they created. It is also time to come up with a proven daune protection plan, that will prove to FEMA that thier flood levels are base on false data. To prove my point just compare shore areas were the dunes did thier job. Then compare the high water marks and level of devastation.
Ortley January 23, 2013 at 02:57 PM
bend over here comes Toms River
PhilApap January 23, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Toms river is making it so hard to start rebuilding. I just want to get going. If FEMA says 8 feet, then I just want to do it and get going with the rebuilding.
Cynthia E Miller January 23, 2013 at 03:08 PM
You people have got to quit sticking up for FEMA. They no nothing. They are helping no one seriously get a grip. FEMA doesn't know their a** from their elbow. 10 or so weeks there has been nothing accomplished. Katrina got more assistance in a timely matter. people still are misplaced and haven't even gave these people a second thought. Nevermind these so called flood maps. FEMA is nothing but a bunch of f***in idiots. come on people, really. I guess those of you who are in favor of FEMA, you are very easily manipulated. As for FEMA, you have got to move faster. My opinion, FEMA needs to be abolished.
Irina January 23, 2013 at 03:24 PM
NOBODY sacrificed anyone for anyone....Stop with yoiur asinine conspiracy theories.
Irina January 23, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Blaming Toms River is ridiculious. Blame the Ortley Homeowners associations they are the true enemy here, their sheep need to stop listening to the ass_ociations and do what FEMA says. SIGN the easements and you'll get dunes. If you refuse to sign, get ready to invest in pontoons for your homes.
Irina January 23, 2013 at 03:29 PM
It's your homeowners ass_ociations that you're bending over for. Stop being sheep and listening to them. My tax dollars will NOT fund dunes on your private property.
Mr. ? January 23, 2013 at 03:59 PM
"My tax dollars will NOT fund dunes on your private property."............. No, but your taxes will pay for their distressed properties with the loss of valuation, and decrease to the tax base. The sooner these issues are resolved, the sooner these homes are rebuilt, the sooner the ratable base is restored. Work to solve the problems and then argue about it later. And Fema?...you actually expect government to support you? Too much government supporting itself and its own with your money
Chief Wahoo January 23, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Sure do. But the island needed to seperate long before Sandy. But nobody seemed to care when times were good and bubbles were being blown. POP ! LOSS. It has more meaning than just you are taking big financial losses.
Chief Wahoo January 23, 2013 at 04:19 PM
If the mainland hates the island and the island hates the mainland. Simple. Get a divorce. Ahhhh but who doesn't want to get divorced. follow the money.
Michelle Blamble January 23, 2013 at 05:14 PM
The problem here is the below quote makes it seem like he sees his job as protecting the mainland and is going to throw the island under the bus. "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?" I don't understand why one storm makes FEMA redo everything. I cynically suspect they will use this as an opportunity to raise more money. I certainly haven't seen any help from them..... Personally speaking, if new flood insurance rates are anywhere near the rumors I've heard most people would be better off paying it to ourselves and self insuring.
Cade January 23, 2013 at 05:29 PM
whatever they do they need to give some definitive answers...my house has been sitting there gutted and just waiting to rebuild, or sell depending on insurance rates and prices to lift...it'll prob end up getting sold as an empty lot at this point (amazingly we've had a few people looking into buying it) but first and foremost they need dunes...if you want a private beach you have to pay to maintain it, plain and simple, if you don't want to pay, Grant the easements so they can be rebuilt with taxpayers and open for taxpayers use...not doing anything is doing nothing but endangering the entire island...why rebuilt yet when one storm n its all gone again because these homeowners association's refuse to compromise
letsgetreal January 23, 2013 at 05:31 PM
That is funny take a look at Brick and Mantoloking areas...they had heavy damage and they had dunes. Dunes will not prevent major storms from damaging and flooding...we are talking about the ATLANTIC OCEAN....Ortley Beach is a low lying area PERIOD..go to Google earth and look at the elevations...they are the lowest in the barrier island.
taxed-out-the-wazoo January 23, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Is the engineer for the Township also keeping in mind that the damage would have been less to some of the houses in Ortley Beach in area AE IF the homeowners had access to their homes sooner. My damage came as a result of the water allowing to sit in my crawl space and creep into my main house...up through the floors, into the walls, etc. BECAUSE of the lack of access and the inability to remediate, the insulation in the crawl space acted as a sponge and my house was a humidor. This was not the level of waves, but the govermental restrictions re access. So, the maps are probably correct. Those closest water ARE at a greater risk. Those inward from the water are not. FEMA understands this.
peter benz January 23, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Can you spell Katrina, all over again. The Big fish eats the little fish. Devalue and buy.....
taxed-out-the-wazoo January 23, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Hi Cindy - not taking up for FEMA, but you do know that it is the NJ State that is running the show. The state gov't will not allow the federal gov't to take control hence some of the delays. The lack of funding to FEMA was/is Congress. That is another crapstorm in and of itself...how can those who pay into insurance funds...be told to wait until Congress makes a vote to fund the very program it takes homeowner's money every year to implement.
Peter S January 23, 2013 at 08:25 PM
How many of the Township officials live on the Barrier Island?
Tonysoprano_62 January 23, 2013 at 08:37 PM
It's about the money. The more inclusive the flood zones the more people who will have their premiums go up because not everyone can afford to raise their house and not everyone will qualify by the 51% rule. Maybe some type of "Grandfather Clause" will kick in allowing residents to be faced with moderate increases in their flood insurance premuums year over year but if you transfer the deed or rebuild you're subject to the new requirements. One can only hope. In regards to the "Dunies." I enjoyed lower taxes because my friends on the barriers payed higher taxes for their ocean view. It was a 500 year storm and because someone didn't build their sandcastle high enough we all paid the price. I don't buy it.
Floodgate January 23, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Sandy hit my part of the lagoon 4' to 5' below the new suggested abfe , and just below the insurance map thats in effect now from 1988
Taylor Monaco January 23, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Cynthia, my boss is working with several clients in Toms River, Lavallette, Sea Side, and Ocean City. The Public Adjuster for my company (I am his assistant) is actually certified as a FEMA adjuster, but now works with homeowners to pursue payment for damages. If you, or anyone you know would like more information, feel free to check us out on facebook, Resolve Adjustment LLC. or our website, www.resolveadjustment.com. Even if you are not sure about hiring someone to help, we can lend advice as to where to go, what to do. -Taylor Monaco
barbara January 24, 2013 at 12:29 AM
So true Cynthia, so true.
Michelle Blamble January 24, 2013 at 02:03 AM
Bingo - I only had about a foot of water in the house but the damage was extensive since it was sitting there for a month before I could even try to save anything. Frankly, I think Toms River owes me a lot of money to compensate for the additional damage they caused by their incompetence.
Michelle Blamble January 24, 2013 at 02:05 AM
why did you reject my comment?
PJ Ortley January 24, 2013 at 05:02 AM
The new FEMA ABFEs for most of Ortley Beach are 3 ft ABOVE the Sandy high water mark. ABFE is supposed to be water height for a 1 in 100 year event. Sandy was a 1 in 500 year storm. That's the data and it says the proposed new FEMA ABFEs and the V zones are completely unwarranted. If the current FEMA proposal becomes final, then the property values on the barrier island will nosedive. TR officials say the tax loss now is 20% - it will go to 50% - and the mainland taxes will skyrocket to pay the Township bills that the barrier island has subsidized for years. With regard to the dunes - the beachfront property owners will consider signing the proposed easement if the mainland residents agree that TR can build a new highway through your property without telling where on your property it will go, or how wide it will be.
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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