Freeboarding Debate Returns to Fenwick Island - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Freeboarding Debate Returns to Fenwick Island

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Most homes in Fenwick Island already have significant freeboard underneath their home (Source: WBOC) Most homes in Fenwick Island already have significant freeboard underneath their home (Source: WBOC)

FENWICK ISLAND, Del. - Council members in Fenwick Island are considering a new ordinance, which would allow homes to rise above the current height limit of 30 feet, but only if it's to add more flood protection at the bottom. At a recent council meeting, the first reading of the ordinance was approved by a vote of five to one. 

The debate is centered around the concept of "freeboard," which essentially can be defined as the distance above flood level that a home or structure is constructed. The more freeboard found below a structure, the more protected it is from flooding. In order to incentivize the use of freeboard, the council has suggested the change, which would allow a new home to be constructed as much as two feet above the height limit, if the freeboard is built at that height as well. Constructing a freeboard would continue to be optional for the homeowner.

"We want to combat sea level rise," said Mayor Eugene Langan.

Langan said that the change is needed so that homeowners do not lose segments of their roof, when adding freeboard. 

"They're going to have to squish down their roof," he said. "They would lose living area." 

Councilwoman Julie Lee was the sole vote in opposition on the council. She campaigned partially on a platform of keeping the height limit at 30 feet. 

"It's about the character of Fenwick Island," she said. 

This was a thought echoed by John Rymer, who lives on East Georgetown Street. He said that the change was "unnecessary," because freeboard could be "easily accommodated," without raising the roof above 30 feet. 

"It's a red herring," he said. "We have beautiful 30-foot homes in this town. And most of them - all of the new ones - conform to freeboarding of 18 inches, 24 inches, and more inches than that." 

In November, the town sent out a one question survey, asking whether people would be in favor of such an ordinance. The results, which had a 40 percent response rate, had 190 responses in support, compared to 164 against. Eight people said they were neutral about the question. 

The next meeting on the topic will be on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Charter and Ordinance Committee Meeting. There's expected to be a public hearing scheduled, before the final vote on April 1.

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