The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new floodplain maps, reviewed by the Swansboro Planning Board on Monday, May 4, become effective June 19.
Town commissioners will present the new maps in a public hearing on Monday, May 11, according to Jennifer Ansell, town planner. Property owners can get a look at the changes now through the Onslow County website. (See related item.)
“The changes are too broad to generalize, but some properties are coming out of the floodplain all together and some are moving into the more restrictive VE (velocity) zone,” Ansell said in an email. She suggested visiting the county website. “There you can open up Map Layers and turn on the Effective (current/regulatory) and Preliminary layers to see the changes.”
There is also a “Changes Since Last FIRM” layer. “That will show if there has been an increase or decrease since the last Flood Insurance Rate Map, which was Nov. 3, 2005.”
One of the biggest changes is the new Coastal A zone, identified by the Limit of Moderate Wave Action line, according to Ansell.
“So even if a property is mapped as being within the AE flood zone, if there are structures waterward of the LiMWA line, they are subject to the VE standards,” she explained. “I have been working with GIS to get that mapped on their site.”
While Ansell said Monday that she was unable to notify affected property owners by mail, the planning board members made it clear on May 4 that the town should do what it can to make people aware of the change.
The planning was asked to make one recommendation, which the commissioners will consider on May 11. That is, the freeboard requirement.
“Currently, we do not have a freeboard requirement,” Ansell said.
Freeboard is the height above the base-flood elevation to which a structure must be built. In the most restrictive zone, the base flood elevation is 12 feet. It reduces to 11 feet in the next level.
The Swansboro Flood Management Appeals Board suggested that the planning board recommend a 1-foot freeboard, according to Ansell. The town’s CAMA Land-Use Plan calls for a 2-foot freeboard and the state suggests 2-4 feet of freeboard.
Ed McHale, planning board member, asked Ansell to explain the significance of the freeboard.
While there is no requirement for the freeboard, Ansell said, “It does translate into insurance premium (savings).”
Ralph Kohlmann, planning board chairman, asked what reasons were behind the suggestion of a 1-foot freeboard. Scott Chadwick, planning board member, said he believed the 1-foot suggestion was predicated on the fact that the town has 35-foot building height limit.
Ansell said that likely figured into the decision.
“That sort of limits the number of stories you are allowed,” she of the combination of height-limit and base-flood elevation.
“Although I had considered higher, I understand the one-foot,” Chadwick said of the freeboard suggestion. “I’d be willing to agree with their recommendation.”
But Kohlmann was not convinced.
“I’m a little troubled by the degree of variance,” he said, referring to the 1-foot suggestion and the 2-4 feet suggested by the state.
In the end, the planning board voted to recommend a 2-foot freeboard.
“That makes it consistent with the CAMA plan,” Kohlmann said.
Owners of property that has changed may want to contact their insurance agent to discuss flood insurance before June 19.
Generally, FEMA updates floodplain maps every 10 to 15 years. These maps outline a community’s flood risk and help local governments and developers make informed decisions about planning and growth. This mapping is an essential part of the National Flood Insurance Program, because it informs NFIP regulations and flood insurance requirements for property owners.
Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States, and most homeowner’s insurance policies may not cover the effects of flooding, according to FEMA. Depending on financing flood insurance may be required for properties. Flood insurance is available either through a private policy or through the National Flood Insurance Program.
“As a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program, we are required to update our Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance with the new map references before the effective date of the new FIRMs,” Ansell states in a memo to the planning board.
The planning board meeting took place online using the Zoom platform.
The Monday, May 11, commissioners meeting will also take place online by way of Zoom. For information on how to be part of that meeting, email Paula Webb, assistant town manager and town clerk, 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Webb’s email is email@example.com.
The Board of Commissioners meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.
Email Jimmy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Swansboro maps can be viewed at
Maps are also available at the State Flood Risk Information System site. This site features the preliminary maps and the LiMWA layer.