Gulfport NFIP Compliance: Upon Further Review FEMA Backs Down

I highlighted the head scratching story of FEMA raising Gulfport’s Flood rating in my last Around the GO Zone post and ended it with a prediction:

it seems to me that construction that predates the new flood plain should be grandfathered. We have not heard the last of this story and I bet it includes some bureaucratic bungling on FEMA’s part.

In this case I am very happy to be right as today we are greeted with yet another follow up story by Ryan LaFontaine which tells us the FEMA letter to Mayor Warr was “premature”. Here is the latest:

A week after vowing to take steps that would raise flood insurance premiums for every Gulfport homeowner, FEMA suggested Friday it may have overreacted.

FEMA discovered more than 200 properties that violated national flood elevation requirements in 2006 during what the agency calls a “community assessment visit” in Gulfport.

In a letter to City Hall last week, FEMA said that because those problem properties were not remedied, it planned to drop the city’s flood rating to the lowest level possible, which would raise flood insurance premiums for every homeowner in Gulfport by as much as 10 percent.

But in a written statement to the city on Friday, FEMA Mitigation Director Brad Loar said that letter should have never been sent.

“Unfortunately, that letter was premature and should not have gone out until we had evaluated all materials,” he said. “We regret that sending this letter has caused undue alarm to the citizens of Gulfport.”

Loar said Gulfport officials were warned for two years that if the non-compliant properties were not remedied, every Gulfport homeowner would see a hike in insurance premiums.

To help resolve the problem properties, FEMA asked the city to submit documentation, including permits, elevation certificates and substantial damage determinations, on each of the non-compliant parcels.

Mayor Brent Warr in March flew to FEMA’s Atlanta headquarters to hand-deliver the documentation.

Loar said it was unfortunate that FEMA sent last week’s letter before it reviewed the city’s documents and “responded by letter specifically to the information the city submitted.”

Warr said city officials believe some of the information the city sent to Atlanta had not yet made it up the chain of command at FEMA.

“I really appreciate FEMA listening to us and working with us,” Warr said. “We have additional information to send them that we think will actually improve our standing with FEMA.”

Loar said FEMA would continue to work with city leaders to resolve the non-compliant properties.

“We have promised Mayor Warr we will provide a response within the next two weeks to the information provided in March,” Loar said. “And we will review any additional information the city may provide as quickly as possible.

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