UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: Crowd storms officials with questions, concerns about 're-build' after Sandy

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Crowd storms officials with questions, concerns about 're-build' after Sandy

More than 100 Fairfielders still coping with Superstorm Sandy's aftermath packed Riverfield School on Wednesday night to with questions to ask federal and town officials about the repair and recovery process.
"We are getting a few more chairs and tables set up in back," First Selectman Michael Tetreau said as the forum got under way. "We've got a standing-room-only crowd and we're trying to address that."
Over the next two hours, town officials from the Plan and Zoning, Building and Conservation departments and federal officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration answered about 50 written questions related to flood elevations, town zoning regulations, permit fees, how the town plans to prepare for a future hurricane, and grants and loans that could help them repair storm-damaged homes.
After the forum ended, Roland Schroeder of Carlynn Drive said he thought it was "very helpful."
"I thought it was great to have everybody in one room," Schroeder said.
Schroeder said he's thinking of elevating his house, though he's not required to because the cost to repair storm damage is not 50 percent of the house's overall appraised value. If the estimated cost to repair a house is at least 50 percent of its appraised value before the storm, the homeowner is required to elevate it.
But, Schroeder added, elevating his home could lower his flood insurance premiums, make his home less susceptible to damage from a future storm and give him peace of mind.
"The big question is, `Will it happen again, and, if so, will it be worse?' " he said.
Midway through the meeting, an audience member submitted a question that asked forum attendees how many of them plan to elevate their homes and more than a dozen raised their hands to show that they plan to do so.
Assistant Town Planner James Wendt said the Plan & Zoning Department planned to recommend zoning regulations be changed in the Beach District to allow houses to be taller because of the number of residents who want, or are forced, to elevate their homes because their storm damages exceed 50 percent.
The current height limitation in the Beach District, along Fairfield Beach Road, is 30 feet. Officials indicated that the revised rules could allow an extra foot of height for every two feet of vertical distance between the average grade and base flood elevation, which already is in effect in the A, B and C residential zones, Wendt said. Any change to the regulations would require approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.
Wendt said 12 permits had been issued to elevate homes so far and none would violate the height limitation. But, he said, several requests for waivers related to height are going before the town's Zoning Board of Appeals at a March 7 meeting that begins at 3 p.m. in Sullivan-Independence Hall.
The current minimum elevation for most homes south of the Old Post Road is 11 feet above sea level, but town officials recommend the elevation be from 13 to 15 feet based on what happened during Sandy. READ MORE:

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