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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Homeowners Urged to Raise Homes Due to Flood Threat

More than 80 Lake Hiawatha homeowners, including some who started to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, are being told they’re legally required to raise the elevation of their foundations or demolish their homes.

Township officials sent 65 letters to homeowners last month and on Wednesday said another 20 letters would be sent by Thursday morning. Township inspectors have determined the homes in question suffered enough damage from the Aug. 28 hurricane to trigger federal insurance program requirement to raise them above the 100-year flood plain.

Mayor James Barberio said he initially stopped some of the letters from being sent while township officials sought clarification of the regulations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the flood insurance program. He said on Wednesday, after being asked about the letters, that the remainder will be sent “to be consistent” while the township continues to wait for a response.

“I stopped the letters because I was looking for answers,” Barberio said.

Barberio said he’s heard from residents who already poured tens of thousands of dollars into repairing homes in the aftermath of the Rockaway River flooding a portion of the Lake Hiawatha section of the township. Some of those residents now face the prospect of demolishing those homes or trying to raise them, with no guarantee they will survive the process. The township letter threatens a daily fine for failing to comply with a local ordinance implemented in 1986 to be in line with federal regulations.

Barberio said he would “recommend” that anyone receiving such a letter stop working on their homes until township officials determine what they are required to do. The letters are directed at homeowners in the 100-year-flood plain with damage exceeding 50 percent of the market value of their homes, without the land.

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