Over 30 people packed one half of the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees' meeting room Monday evening, the vast majority of whom supported the board’s proposal to lower the threshold requiring flood-prone homeowners to raise their homes above the flood plain level.
Earlier in the summer, a similar crowd stormed a Commission (HCZM) meeting to petition the board to rule the proposed law consistent with the village's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). The board declined to vote on the matter, which rendered the law consistent, by default.
The new law amends one passed in 2007 holding that any improvement of a structure that equals or exceeds half of the home’s market value at the time of the repair or rehabilitation when counted cumulatively for 10 years, whether related to flood damage or not, is required to raise their home.
The cumulative provision has been dropped, meaning that if a flood occurs or a homeowner repairs his or her house and the damage to a home is over 50 percent of its value, it still has to be raised. The board also eliminated a flood-related component of the definition of “substantial damage” in determining if a home or business needs to be raised.
Most speakers at the public hearing that preceded the vote spoke passionately in favor of the resolution. A woman in the audience softly shouted “all right” and “that’s right” about a dozen times after hearing statements she supported.
The provisions are tied to complex Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rules regarding homes in flood zones. Trustee John Hofstetter and Mayor Norman Rosenblum immediately squared off over the issue, with each claiming the other person did not understand the underlying implications.
During the public hearing, trustees limited speakers’ time to two minutes, but the countdown clock with red numbers installed a few months ago didn’t work and the board used a timer instead.
Jeremy Ingpen, executive director of the , a nonprofit organization which is located in the flood prone Flats neighborhood, said that raising a home is a “simple engineering arrangement.” Not every house can be raised off its foundation and out of the flood plain, but, he said that 200 houses could benefit from the procedure. Both he and village officials expressed an interest in seeking grants and other sources of funds to help homeowners.
Reverend James Taylor from the called the requirement that residents raise their homes “unconscionable,” since many people were still trying to recover from the 2007 Nor'easter that ravaged low-lying areas in Mamaroneck. In fact, said Rev.Taylor, he hypothetically asked his congregation if anyone had $200,000 lying around to help people raise their homes; no one raised their hands.
Resident Sue McCrory said that if the change goes through, homeowners would lose out on $30,000 in flood insurance money to help raise their houses. She said one home on 1st Street would cost $60,000 to prop up.
Rosenblum dismissed supporters of the present statute as elitist and Hofstetter, who cast the sole “no” vote, said that the issue had been railroaded.
"It’s too bad we didn’t look at things further,” said Hofstetter. “I don’t think we had a real conversation.”