Nearly a year after the a village board meeting to admonish local officials for what they called a lack of coordinated effort in helping them recoup their losses, some of the same residents approached the podium at Wednesday night’s Harbor Coastal Zone Management Commission (HCZM) meeting to express their frustrations with a portion of the village’s flood code that could potentially add to their hardships.
Two provisions in Mamaroneck’s Village Code 186-2—cumulative substantial damage and substantial damage—stipulate that any improvement or flood-related repairs exceeding a certain percentage of the market value of a home or structure in a flood zone over a 10-year period, would mean that the home or structure would then need to be elevated above base flood level.
But recently, these provisions were challenged by the village board and the Flood Mitigation Committee, who deemed them as too restrictive, particularly to those people who had suffered repeated damage as a result of flooding.
This led to a proposed revision of the code by which has been drafted by the Board of Trustees as a new local law. The new law would remove the following clauses:
- Cumulative substantial improvement – any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a structure that equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure at the time of the improvement or repair when counted cumulatively for 10 years.
- Substantial damage – “Substantial damage” also means flood-related damages sustained by a structure on two separate occasions during a 10-year period for which the cost of repairs at the time of such flood event, on the average, equals, or exceeds 25 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.
One portion of the code that would remain, however, is a clause stipulating that if the cost of restoring a structure to its pre-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred, the home or structure would need to be elevated.
“We are giving the public the right to determine how they want to spend their money and not the government telling them they have to raise their house and, if not, they’re going to have to leave the village,” said Mayor Norm Rosenblum to applause from the audience packed into the courtroom.
During the public hearing, however, residents expressed a mixture of outrage and befuddlement, particularly by a process that many didn’t understand.
Darlene Green, an outspoken resident of Howard Avenue, admonished local officials for turning a blind eye to the plight of people living in flood-ravaged areas.
“You know we don’t have the money to raise our houses—we are poor people,” she said, continuing, “It is not fair to the taxpayers here, to the long time residents that have lived in this town and helped build up Mamaroneck. We didn’t tear it down—we built it up,” she said forcefully.
Resident John Bucknavage echoed a complaint heard by others that not enough information had been disseminated to the public about the decision although, by his own admission, he had not attended earlier meetings that discussed the provisions.
“I think we all want to make an informed judgment based upon what we understand,” he said.
But Brad Stine, a resident who lives next to the Mamaroneck River and has flooded five times in two decades, summarized the lack of community participation in the decision making process: “The reason why many flood victims weren’t here in June is because the change in the law was so self evident to those of us who have been victimized over the years that we couldn’t imagine it would be a problem.”
Later, he implored HCZM members not to vote for inconsistency. “Please don’t be that rock in the road,” he said.
The four members of the HCZM present at the meeting—who were tasked with reviewing the proposed law for its consistency with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Policy (LWRP)—declined to vote on the matter, rendering the proposed law consistent, by default. A final vote will take place at the Board of Trustees’ public hearing on Sept. 4.
“I fully expect the proposed law to be enacted,” said Rosenblum after the meeting.