Flood map decision delayed

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Planning Commission on Tuesday delayed a decision on new flood maps for the city after a dozen concerned property owners spoke during the public hearing.

The maps, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are based on historical research and mapping techniques to determine what areas are more likely to flood than others. The decisions affect who is required to purchase flood insurance.

The new proposed maps affect about 1,270 homeowners. Of those, about 554 are newly in the flood zone; more than 700 are being taken out of the flood zone.

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Many homeowners, at both the public hearing and during an information session held last month, said they could never fathom their homes flooding.

“If my house floods, Lord help the other people in Suffolk,” said Wilbur Morris, who lives in Nansemond Gardens. “I believe that will be about as high a point as you’ll find around Suffolk.”

Morris said his home is about 25 to 30 feet above the water at normal high tide. Even during severe storms in the last decade or so, he said, the water has risen only about seven to eight feet.

City staff explained that for many of the parcels in the flood zone, only a portion of them are in the flood zone.

Many residents also questioned the timing of the notices, saying they were not notified the maps were being updated and they could be affected until it was too late to do anything.

Now, the only way to get a property’s flood-prone designation removed is to hire a surveyor.

“It places an unnecessary expense on property owners,” said C.F. Jordan.

Mark Kiser, who lives on Freeman Mill Road, said he thinks FEMA needs to “reevaluate the entire process.”

“I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them,” Kiser said of FEMA.

Many of the residents who spoke requested that the matter be tabled to give them time to work out their problems.

“We’re providing as much information as we possibly can,” said Tim Davis of the city’s planning department.

Davis said the maps are not yet on the city’s website, but they are working on that. Meanwhile, people can call the planning department at 514-4151, email PlanningEmail@suffolkva.us or visit at 441 Market St. to get copies of the maps affecting their area.