Loxahatchee Groves will soon have another issue to decide on in upcoming town meetings. FEMA has presented the town with an ultimatum to participate in the floodplain management program. The Groves remains one of only 10 towns that has not made this decision, while another 468 in Florida have opted to do so. If the town does not participate in the program by agreeing to regulate future development in the mapped floodplains, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will no longer allow town residents to obtain federally backed flood insurance. Further regulations are never popular, but consider the following:
I am certain many town residents have viewed the new floodplain maps (available on the town web site), as to what classification their property now receives. There are properties that were not classified as in the flood zone previously that now are. Some properties even have their houses out of the flood zone, but portions of their land in the flood zone, which means that your insurers can now demand flood coverage.
What this means to you is that if the council does not elect to participate in this program, and you are in one of these designated flood zones, FEMA will no longer be available to you, and you will need to go with a private insurer, if available, at a higher cost. Once the decision is made, if the town does not elect to participate, they will not later be able to go back to change the decision.
At first glance, it may seem that this doesn’t affect those who are not in a flood zone or don’t have a mortgage, but I believe this could ultimately affect many. Even if you do not carry flood insurance because you are currently out of the flood zone, as many were previously, or you have no mortgage, when you go to sell your home with a new designation of flood zone, if a buyer can’t pay cash, they will not be able to purchase FEMA insurance. If you take an equity line out, your insurer may require you to pay flood insurance because of the new flood maps. The goal of the program is to minimize damage to public and private facilities and utilities, and provide for the sound use and development of flood hazard areas and minimize the need for future expenditures of public funds for projects and response/recovery from flood events.
If the program is voted through, it will not affect existing homes or properties as they currently are. It will affect only new construction or properties that make modifications up to 50 percent of market value or changes on the land. The goal of the program is to get new elevation for future growth that will reduce flooding.
I would suggest you read through Ordinance 2017-019: Floodplain Management Regulations to understand more of the intent and whether you believe this to be a good decision for the town as the vote is brought before the council.
I haven’t forgotten our number one priority at the moment — roads — but I’ll be back to that next writing.
Joyce Batcheler, Loxahatchee Groves
Editor’s note: Ms. Batcheler is a declared candidate for Loxahatchee Groves Town Council, Seat 3.