New flood maps draw ire of residents

Published 7:09 pm Friday, July 22, 2011

Flood maps: Scott Mills, left, director of Planning and Community Development for the city of Suffolk, helps resident Matthew Godette locate his residence on an enlarged copy of the new FEMA flood maps.

About 60 homeowners showed up to a meeting Thursday to protest their property’s inclusion in high-risk flood zones on new maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The informational meeting at King’s Fork High School was conducted by city planning staff to answer the concerns of about 554 property owners who are affected by the changing maps. The Planning Commission likely will hold a public meeting on the matter in August, said Tim Davis, a member of the city’s planning staff.

The flood maps changed because of better mapping technology and historical data, as well as topography changes because of development, storms and other factors.

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Most changes were along bodies of water, including minor creeks, streams and tributaries.

“The flood zone has basically moved inward a few hundred feet,” Davis said.

Many property owners were unhappy about the change.

“I have never had a drop of water flood anything on that farm,” said Charles Jordan, who owns a farm on Labrador Lane. “It just makes absolutely no sense. This is just very disconcerting.”

Owners of properties in high-risk flood zones usually are required to have flood insurance. The average flood insurance premium in Suffolk is about $400, Davis said, but that includes all the people who don’t have to pay anything. Premiums can run as high as $1,600.

“If you suspect that the map is incorrect, there are ways to get it changed,” said Allison Meehan with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Having the map changed, however, involves hiring a surveyor to prove that a property is highly unlikely to flood.

Davis told the property owners that even if only a small portion of their property is affected, they received a letter in the mail to let them know. He encouraged homeowners to contact their mortgage lenders and insurance agents, who make the ultimate determination of whether flood insurance is required for each property.

The new maps will be posted on the city website soon.