Flood Insurance Hikes Could Come To Somerset Co. Homes - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Flood Insurance Hikes Could Come To Somerset Co. Homes

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SOMERSET CO., Md. – Since FEMA updated their coastal flood maps, some people across Delmarva started to realize they could see an increase in flood insurance rates.

While Somerset County officials have seen it coming for about year, the changes are still causing big worries for Maryland’s poorest county.

“People are calling in they're concerned,” says Robert Spery, the zoning administrator for Somerset County.

If FEMA’s new coastal flood maps are adopted the floodplain will expand to 61 percent of the county, a jump from the current 56 percent.

“Although that's only a five percent increase it's about 11,000 acres county-wide,” says Gary Pusey, the planning director for Somerset County.

This means that some residents will be getting flood insurance for the first time. In addition, the new maps also make changes to homes’ base flood elevations, which is the computed elevation of how much floodwater is expected to rise during a base flood. This essentially changes the requirements for how high off the ground each house needs to be, and it can be different for every house.

“They’ve raised those a lot, between two feet, four feet, five feet, some properties along the rivers were increased radically,” says Spery. “I talked to one gentleman who lives along one river and his went up to 11 feet, he had been at five feet and his went up six feet.”

 Homes that are not high enough could see huge flood insurance hikes. For instance, a house that is four feet below its base flood elevation could pay as much as $9,500 a year. Homeowners who have paid off their mortgage do not have to buy flood insurance, but that does not necessarily mean they are off the hook.

“Even though you may not be obligated now to carry flood insurance, at some future date you may want to sell it, or your heirs may want to sell the property.”

47 ABC spoke with the owner of a home between Carrollton Court and Stewart Neck Road in Westover, which has been added to the floodplain under FEMA’s proposed maps. He declined to go on camera, but he says in his 40 years of living at his residence, he has never had flood problems. Although his mortgage is paid off, he now questions whether or not to raise his home, which may be about six feet below his base flood elevation. The solution would drastically lower flood insurance premiums, but raising a home is not cheap either.

“Elevation would be difficult because it probably would cost $30,000 dollars or so,” says Pusey.

“We like to see as many people that can do it,” says Spery. “Our biggest concern is that premiums would get so high it wouldn't be possible to build in the county.”

Residents have until May 12th to appeal the new maps, but county officials say without scientific evidence, homeowners are unlikely to get anywhere. Pusey says he expects to have the county’s floodplain ordinance, which is based off of FEMA’s maps, by the end of 2014 or early next year. There will also reportedly be an information session this summer where residents can meet with FEMA officials to get more information.

In the meantime, county officials urge residents to come to the Planning and Zoning office to look at the maps to get informed. Insurance experts say residents should explore their options.

Be educated, talk with your local agent or whoever you’re dealing with at the time,” says Brittany Ward with Landmark Insurance and Financial Group. “Don’t compare your policy to say your neighbors, everybody’s property is different.”
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