South Bethany Hires Firm to Appeal FEMA Flood Maps - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

South Bethany Hires Firm to Appeal FEMA Flood Maps

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South Bethany's beach protected by the dune.  (Photo: WBOC) South Bethany's beach protected by the dune. (Photo: WBOC)

SOUTH BETHANY, Del. - In response to neighbor concerns over the last year, the South Bethany Town Council took action last week to combat new FEMA flood maps that would cause an increase to the insurance rates of property owners. 

The preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map was released in January of 2013, and showed residents on Ocean Drive, as having a Base Flood Elevation of 10 feet. Then in August of 2014, FEMA changed this to a BFE of 13, upon "further analysis." 

This change of three feet, prompted a number of residents to voice their opposition to the spiking rates. To combat the change, the South Bethany Town Council voted to sign a contract with the Woods Hole Group at an Oct. 22 workshop meeting.

The environmental, engineering firm has been tasked with developing a strategy to appeal the change, and is being compensated with just over $23,000. 

"We want to get it right," said Mayor Pro Tem Sue Callaway. "We want to get it fair. For not only the Ocean Drive homeowners, but for everyone in town." 

Tim Shaw, a resident of Ocean Drive, said that his insurance jumped from approximately $3,500 a year to approximately $25,000.  

"The insurance rate had basically gone up by a multiple of eight," Shaw said.

Shaw said that central to the debate is the dune in South Bethany. The dune protects coastal homes, but he said that FEMA doesn't factor the dune into the equation, because future funding is not necessarily guaranteed. 

"In all these calculations," he said. "They refuse to take into account this dune. So we have one government agency that's saying we put up a nice dune that will protect you... Then we have another agency saying we can't count the dune. We have to pretend it's not there."

The city said that the work will be phased into five tasks. Task one will be to review the design study for the dune project, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Task two will include analysis of the flood zone itself. Task three will include developing a strategy for a possible appeal. The costs of these three tasks will be $12,780. 

The city will then make a decision about whether or not they want to file an appeal, based on the findings. This vote is expected to be held at their Dec. 11 meeting. If they decide to proceed, the firm will start task four, filing the appeal itself, which will cost $7,280. Task five will include tracking the appeal, as needed, which is estimated to cost approximately $3,300. 

The appeal is due to FEMA by Jan. 20, 2016. 

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