RPB Concerned That Parts Of The Village Will Stay On FEMA Flood Maps

The saga of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood maps is far from over, according to Royal Palm Beach Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara, who reported to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council last week that a significant number of homes in the village are still listed in the flood plain.

“Unfortunately, this appears that it will be a fairly long-term thing,” Hmara said at the Feb. 20 meeting, adding that the village had submitted its own flood information in proper form to FEMA, which will incorporate locally supplied information into its updated maps.

“It’s really important for FEMA to adopt the information and make it part of their revised edition of their preliminary maps,” he said.

Those maps are important to the village and residents because they determine whether a certain property needs flood insurance and, if so, how much it would cost.

“The bad news is that even with that new information, there are still going to be some properties in Royal Palm Beach that did not previously require flood insurance, but now may require it,” Hmara said.

FEMA has an appeals process. Its agents will actually visit residences in some cases to work with homeowners, he said.

“I’m sure the village will also persist in whatever ways we can come up with to help in that appeals process if it becomes necessary,” Hmara said, noting that the process has become widespread throughout the country, generating a new cottage industry. “You can go out and hire someone to help you with the appeal process.”

In Tallahassee, there is at least one bill that would encourage insurance companies to offer flood insurance policies and entice competition that might drive down the cost.

“That continues to be looked at in committee for the next session, which starts in March,” Hmara said.

In Washington, D.C., there is an effort to insure that affordability measures are put in place that would extend the implementation time of the new FEMA maps by four more years, giving local entities time to look for ways to reduce the risk. It is also proposed that the appeals process could be covered by the federal government.

“Unfortunately, that’s stuck in the House of Representatives,” he said. “The leadership opposed it even though there were plenty of people in the Senate supporting it.”

The Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation is preparing a letter to send to the House leadership once they look at a revised version of the bill, he said.

“The fight continues, and it looks like it’s going to go on for some period of time, but it’s important for us to stay informed on it, and engaged whenever we can,” Hmara said.

Councilman David Swift asked Village Manager Ray Liggins whether homes in the village are on the current maps, based on the South Florida Water Management District’s updated model for the C-51 Basin, from which the village got its information.

Liggins said portions will be shown on the FEMA flood maps, although all of the village is above the SFWMD’s permit level.

“It will be lots that will show below that base flood elevation, which triggers the need when they refinance to get elevation certification, which verifies the finished floor elevation,” Liggins said.

He explained that the original village was permitted at 18 feet.

“I don’t believe any of our homes will fall below the South Florida Water Management District elevation of 17.7,” Liggins said. “I don’t know the elevations of all of our homes, but I think our lowest ones are at 19. We shouldn’t have any homes that fall below the base flood elevation. But because of the way they do it, we will still have 20 to 30 percent of our town shown in the flood plain, which will trigger doing that elevation certification.”

Liggins said the revised FEMA maps should be available in the next few months.