– Youtube video above by Marc Averette, actual footage during Hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005
On November 4th we will be voting on a referendum to allow homeowners to voluntarily raise the elevation of their homes above flood level in order to protect themselves and their property. We saw thousands of our homes flooded during Hurricane Wilma. One way to protect them and to lower our flood insurance premiums is to raise them above flood level. Our current height restriction of 35 feet (25 feet in some neighborhoods) would prohibit many of those homes from being raised. One example would be a two-story home in New Town.
In June a diverse group of residents met with the City Planning Department to work on how the referendum would be worded. There were many viewpoints and a great deal of discussion went into the final wording of the referendum. All agreed that this is an important issue and that passing the referendum will help those homeowners who would otherwise have to go through a very cumbersome process to raise their homes for protection. It will also help Key West to show FEMA that we, as a community, deserve a better rating in their Community Rating System, thereby possibly giving us a discounted rate for our citizens when purchasing flood insurance.
Here are some excellent educational videos prepared by the City of Key West’s FEMA coordinator, Scott Fraser:
The July 1, 2014 Executive Summary prepared by the City of Key West’s Planning Department goes into more detail about the question and below is the official endorsement by FIRM [Fair Insurance Rate in Monroe] the grassroots group that has been fighting for fair insurance rates for Monroe County property owners since 2006 .
August 20, 2014
FIRM supports Key West’s referendum that will allow homeowners to protect their property by elevating structures up to 4′ above base flood level. This would not be a requirement for new or existing homes. Any elevation would be at the discretion of the homeowner (and, if the home is in Key West’s historic district, subject to approval by HARC). FIRM believes this is an important tactic not only to mitigate against rising flood insurance premiums, but to protect our homes for decades to come
Here is the language of the referendum:
To protect property against flooding and reduce flood insurance costs for taxpayers citywide, should the City permit an exception to building height regulations when buildings are voluntarily raised off the ground, up to four feet above FEMA established flood levels, yet no more than 40 feet in height?
As you may know, FEMA will be re-drawing flood insurance rate maps over the next few years, and the result of that redrawing will likely vary by property. Providing homeowners with the option to elevate their structures will help us preserve our community and our way of life.
If you really want to understand the potential impact of hurricanes upon Key West, click here to read this excellent piece of research on the Hurricane of 1846.