Eustace Bill to Help Homeowners Protect Properties in Flood Prone Areas, Keep Flood Insurance Low Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – The Assembly on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen) that would allow limited exemptions to local land use restrictions when raising a structure to meet new federal flood elevation standards would violate said restrictions.

“It is a catch-22 for property owners. You want to raise your property to meet new federal guidelines to protect your home from future flooding and avoid higher flood insurance premiums, but doing so might mean breaking land use restrictions set by your local government,” said Eustace. “The bill helps avoid this potential conflict by providing a partial exemption that would allow the property owner to raise an existing structure without violating local land use restrictions.”

The bill (A-3890) would provide a person with a limited exemption from local land use restrictions when raising a structure to meet a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) base flood elevation, if raising the structure would result in a violation of local land use restrictions.
A “new FEMA base flood elevation” is defined in the bill to mean any advisory base flood elevation or effective base flood elevation proposed or adopted after October 29, 2012, by FEMA. A base flood elevation, as calculated by FEMA, represents the elevation of a flood with a one percent chance of occurrence during any given year, commonly referred to as a “100-year flood.”

Specifically, the exemption would allow a person to raise the structure to the “highest applicable flood elevation standard,” which is defined in the bill to be the higher of two standards: (1) the new Federal Emergency Management Agency base flood elevation plus two additional feet, or (2) any applicable flood elevation standard required pursuant to rules and regulations adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to the “Flood Hazard Area Control Act.”

The bill would not apply to new construction. Also, the bill would provide that the exemption would not be available to a person who has altered a structure under circumstances where, had the alteration not been made, the structure could have been raised to meet the highest applicable flood elevation standard either without the exemption or with an exemption of lesser degree than what is needed with the alteration. Nonetheless, a person would not be barred from qualifying for the exemption in this manner because of any alteration that was initiated before the applicable standard was publicly known, meaning, either the new FEMA base flood elevation was publicly proposed by FEMA or the applicable flood elevation standard was adopted by DEP, as the case may be.

The bill was approved 76-1-0 by the Assembly and awaits further consideration by the Senate.