file photo Boyd Loving
Rebuilding Sandy Survivors May Violate Federal Flood Insurance Rules
As more residents of the Jersey Shore receive funding to repair or rebuild their Sandy-damaged homes, the pace of construction is picking up in advance of the summer vacation season. But federal officials and flood insurance experts are worried that inconsistencies between state and federal construction standards mean some homeowners might rebuild in violation of key flood insurance regulations. That could lead to some nasty surprises after future storms — or when selling properties. Some people may find they have to pay insurance surcharges or that they are ineligible for insurance at all.
Last December, FEMA sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, threatening harsh penalties if the inconsistencies aren’t fixed. But five months later, the state has yet to make the requested corrections.
State officials are downplaying the concerns, saying that local construction officials know the proper rules to follow. Experts familiar with the issue argue that’s not necessarily always the case. Though evidence of problems has yet to arise, they fear that issues are likely to crop up as the recovery continues.
The existence of state building rules that are out of compliance with the federal standards puts the onus on local officials to know just which regulations to follow. People like Dane Sprague, the construction official in Long Beach Township — where over 1,500 homes sustained damage during Sandy. Sprague and his colleagues conduct inspections and issue permits, and they’ve been working pretty much non-stop in the year-and-a-half since the storm. (Gurian/NJSpotlight)