by Susan Mikula Campbell
The new Federal Emergency Management floodplain maps are in, and Wheatfield is inviting its residents affected by the changes to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 15, at the town's Community Center.
Letters went out last Friday and this week from Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe notifying affected residents that all or a portion of their property is either in the floodplain currently, or it will be in the floodplain as of Sept. 17 when the new FEMA flood maps take effect.
Town Engineer Timothy Walck of Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers said the meeting will not provide a definitive answer on whether or not homeowners new to the floodplain will be required to purchase expensive flood insurance.
"That's up to the bank," he said, explaining that in cases where the floodplain does not touch the house or structure, but possibly just crosses a corner of the property, the mortgage holder may decide not to require insurance.
For those who are in the floodplain and whose mortgage holders do require the flood insurance, there is some good news. "If they act before Sept. 17, they can save a bunch of money," Walck said.
In addition to Walck, Cliffe, Town Attorney Robert O'Toole and members of the Town Board are expected to be at the meeting to answer residents' questions.
O'Toole said the town has already received calls from some residents who received Cliffe's letter notifying them of the meeting, who said they received letters from former Supervisor Timothy Demler in November saying that they'd been taken off the floodplain maps. O'Toole said it is believed that in most of these cases, it might be that the individual's house itself might not be in the floodplain, but a portion of the property is, leaving the insurance issue in question.
The meeting also will serve to update Bergholz residents on the town's progress in removing homes from the maps in the Bergholz Creek or Sawyer Creek floodplains between Plaza Drive and Ward Road.
Cliffe's letter to residents suggested that they contact their own insurance agent for specific advice regarding flood insurance for their property.
The letter stated:
"If you have a mortgage or home equity loan with a bank and don't currently have flood insurance, the bank will likely notify you that you are required to purchase flood insurance. This requirement may not apply if the floodplain covers part of your property, but does not touch your house or other structure.
"Whether you are required to purchase insurance is up to your bank, not the town. If you are required to buy flood insurance by your bank, there may be a way to spend less on the insurance policy if you act before Sept. 17. Your mortgage bank may not contact you before this date, so you may need to contact them to secure any potential savings. Even though the Town of Wheatfield does not agree with FEMA forcing you to purchase flood insurance through the mortgage loan process, we want to make you aware of this potential to save some money.
"One of the following four scenarios could apply to your home or business. In each of these scenarios, ‘prefirm' refers to a building that was built before the community's first Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), which is July 16, 1981, for the Town of Wheatfield. The word ‘postfirm' refers to a building that was built after July 16, 1981. The approximate insurance rates given below were provided to the Town by DEC last year and are not necessarily current rates. These rates are based on an insured value of $100,000 without optional additional contents coverage. The approximate rates are provided only to give you an idea of potential savings.
"Scenario 1: If Prefirm Structure and out of floodplain now, but in floodplain under new mapping: If you purchase a flood insurance policy before the effective date (9/17/10), you would get a ‘Preferred Risk Rate' policy ($287) for the first annual policy year, plus the first two annual renewal years. Upon annual renewal after the two additional years, it will be an ‘X-Zone Rate' ($636) that will continue forever (provided continuous coverage is maintained) and is transferable to any purchaser of your house. The ‘X-Zone Rate' itself will likely increase each year with inflation, but it will be lower than the ‘Prefirm Rate' as listed below. Obviously, this might make your house more desirable to prospective purchasers than other houses in the floodplain that do not have this lower cost flood insurance available.
"If you purchase a flood insurance policy after the effective date (9/17/10), you will initially have to purchase the ‘Prefirm Rate' ($910). For two renewal years beginning in 2011, the policy will revert to a ‘Preferred Risk Rate' ($287). However, upon renewal after that two-year period, you will return to a ‘Prefirm Rate' ($910), which must be renewed annually.
"Scenario 2: If Postfirm Structure and out of floodplain now, but in floodplain under new mapping:
"If you purchase a flood insurance policy prior to 9/17/10, you will get a ‘Preferred Risk Rate' ($287) policy for the first year, and for two subsequent years upon annual policy renewal. If you wait until after 9/17/10, you will get an ‘X-Zone Rate' for the first year ($636), followed by two years at the ‘Preferred Risk Rate' ($287). Regardless of when you purchase a flood insurance policy, upon renewal after 12/31/12, you would get an ‘X-Zone Rate' ($636) that will continue forever and is transferable. The ‘X-Zone Rate' itself will likely increase each year with inflation.
"Scenario 3: Regardless of the age of the structure, if you are in the floodplain now and have flood insurance, but the base flood elevation goes up: You get to keep whatever policy you have now.
"Scenario 4: Regardless of the age of the structure, if you are in the floodplain now and have flood insurance, but the base flood elevation goes down: If your lowest floor is higher than the new base flood elevation, you could get a reduction in rate as it is based on the difference between the elevation of your structure's lowest floor and the base flood elevation."
The letter goes on to advise, "that it has come to our attention that not all insurance agents are aware of these insurance rate scenarios. Any questions on the rating system may be directed to the New York State DEC Floodplain Management Section at 518-402-8151, or to FEMA's Map Assistance Center at 1-877-336-2627.
"To review the proposed flood maps for your location, please visit the Niagara County Flood Mapping Web site or review the FEMA maps directly at http://www.rampp-team.com/ny.htm. Additional information about flood insurance, including a list of agents who sell flood insurance locally, may be found at www.floodsmart.gov."
For people in the Bergholz/Sawyer Creek areas, the town has submitted a revised floodplain model to FEMA that, if approved, could lower the base flood elevation in this area from 0 to 2 feet below what FEMA has proposed. This is being processed as a Letter of Map Revision. The town is hoping to have a final answer with new mapping from FEMA by the beginning of August. For those in this area, the town suggests researching flood insurance options with an insurance agent and having the policy documents ready to sign in August if their property is not removed.A citizens group dedicated to fighting FEMA floodplain maps, Wheatfield United, is still operating. Its Web page is at www.Wheatfield-United.us or e-mail the group at: email@example.com.