Scott Fraser, Key West FEMA Coordinator Talks About Key West's Height Referendum


Three feet is just a little more than the height of a fire hydrant, but in the world of flood insurance, three feet can make the difference between a $ 6,000 and a $ 800 homeowner’s premium.

According to Scott Fraser, Key West’s FEMA Coordinator, in some cases, raising a home up to an additional four feet above FEMA requirements could result in even greater savings on a homeowner’s annual insurance premium; as much as 94%.

The City Commission is asking voters to consider passing a referendum which would allow homeowners to break through the building height barriers found in the municipal code for the dual purpose of protecting homes from flood damage and drastically reducing insurance costs.

Some residents have expressed concerns about a secret “developers’ agenda” or unintended consequences that might result if the referendum is passed.  In Key West restrictions on building height were put in place as a result of strong demand by residents and they were aggressively safeguarded when a charter amendment was enacted that would require voters to approve any changes – so it’s no wonder that people are paying strict attention to this paticular referendum question.

In the video above The Blue Paper asks Scott Fraser to help residents understand how things would work if the referendum on height were to pass.

Here is the text 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?

The video below explains the potential insurance cost savings when homes are elevated above FEMA flood levels:

This video speaks to how height restrictions and elevation would interplay if the referendum passes:

  No Responses to “Scott Fraser, Key West FEMA Coordinator Talks About Key West's Height Referendum”

  1. In a dream Thursday night, the angels indicated they really liked something Naja Girard was doing, which involved a lot of people. After waking up Friday morning, I opened the new online edition of Key West the newspaper ( and found Naja and Arnaud’s article on the building height referendum.

    In the video interview with Naja, Scott Fraser says the city has no data on how many homes might be covered by the referendum, if it passes. Nor any data on how many homes might have to be torn down and completely rebuilt higher, to take advantage of the referendum. Nor any data on how many homeowners can afford to have their homes raised, or can afford to tear down and rebuild their homes higher.

    I was left fuzzy on whether or not a developer can purchase a vacant lot and build a new home on it and take advantage of the referendum?

    I discussed all of that briefly with Naja Friday night. She said she, too, wondered about the lack of data, and she and Arnaud will talk with City Planner Don Craig this week, and see what else they might learn.

    I also was fuzzy on whether or not the referendum only applies to single family residences? Or will it also apply to a duplex, a four-plex, an apartment building, a guest house, a lodge, a motel, an hotel, an office building, a grocery store? I did not mention that to Naja.

    I did tell Naja that I long have had a problem with the federal government providing flood insurance for homes located in flood-prone areas.

    Naja said FEMA doesn’t like insuring homes on flood-prone areas and is trying to get out of it.

    During the first candidate forum in 2006, after I had filed to run against County Commissioner George Neugent, I said the Florida Keys are a hurricane zone, and if people are worried about hurricanes, perhaps they should live some place else.

    My campaign mantra that year became, “No more new development, period, the end. The Keys are already way over-developed, and there is not a person living here who can look in a mirror and honestly argue otherwise.”

    Federal flood insurance was crucial for the Keys being over-developed. Federal flood insurance is crucial to future development in the Keys.

    I suppose if ISIS, or al Qaeda, weaponize ebola, we might forget all about the building height referendum. We might even forget all about hurricanes. Key West, with all its transient visitors, would be a strategic staging ground for terrorists infected with ebola to start a nation-wide pandemic, and even a world-wide pandemic, given the large number of foreign visitors to Key West.