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Scituate prepares to appeal parts of FEMA flood maps

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 18, 2013 02:11 PM

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While residents fight new flood insurance mandates, Scituate officials are preparing to contest some aspects of the new federal flood maps.

The town’s engineer, Ransom Engineers and Scientists, informed officials on Tuesday that the town has grounds to appeal several assumptions made for the revised maps.

“We will have the voluminous requirements required to be submitted for an appeal met,” said Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi.

Vinchesi noted that the timeframe is extremely tight, given that the final map information was delivered to Scituate three weeks ago, and the deadline for filing any appeals is Oct. 16. Random Engineers was hired three weeks ago for $6,000 to help the town contest the map changes.

Because of the constraints, the town’s engineer is focusing on appeals for larger areas, and will not be able to contest every problem.

“The problem is so vast he doesn’t have the time to deal with all the issues,” said Selectman Tony Vegnani. “He has to focus on the one to two things that can implement some impact on this.”

Scituate may also piggyback on work Marshfield is undertaking to analyze more parts of the map with the hopes of appealing them.

The revised flood maps have caused an avalanche of concern for several coastal communities, who only recently discovered that changes have added hundreds of homes in each community to the flood plain.

On top of the expansion, a congressional act has allowed insurance premiums to rise sharply. For homeowners, it means paying thousands of dollars annually for flood insurance, even if their homes have never been damaged by a storm.

Town officials stressed that though they are appealing parts of the map, homeowners are still strongly encouraged to appeal changes on their individual properties. The town can hand in appeals submitted by homeowners, but not file any on their behalf, officials said.

The action is only one of many happening across the South Shore to contest the map changes.

State Representative Jim Cantwell met with US Senator Edward Markey on Tuesday to try to freeze the implementation of the maps until they can be studied further.

Cantwell has also pressed for a peer review to be done on the potential impact on residents, and is pushing for grandfathering rules to stay in place.

“It’s patently unfair to those folks [who have confirmed with past regulations] and will be a problem financially,” Cantwell said.

Additionally, a number of other business organizations have come together to contest the maps, including bankers concerned about foreclosures, and real estate agents who have said the crisis has had a “chilling effect” on seaside home sales.

On Wednesday, Cantwell was preparing to travel to Washington for a hearing with the US Senate, where the issue would be further discussed.

“This has been the most upsetting thing for our residents,” Cantwell said. “People are worried about the devastating loss of their homes.”

On the local level, Coastal Coalition member David Ball has been trying to get the word out for people to obtain flood insurance while rates are still low, in order to avoid immediate increases once the new maps are implemented.

A rally is also being planned for Sept. 28 at noon in Cole Parkway to raise public awareness.

With all that work, Ball hoped that the pending crisis could be partially averted.

“If this all plays out to worse possible scenario, it will be the worst financial crisis this town has ever faced,” Ball said. “…Hopefully, we can get a fix.”

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