Cutler Bay officials are looking for residents’ input as they work on a plan to reduce flooding in the town.
The town’s anti-flooding efforts come after last year’s passage of a new federal law governing flood insurance. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act aims to reduce government subsidies that now pay part of the cost of flood insurance for many property owners. The law will not immediately affect primary residences, unless the homeowner moves, has a major claim, or changes insurance. Also, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, only about 20 percent of properties were subsidized to begin with.
“Homeowners who have lived in their home, are current with their flood insurance and do not let it lapse, will not see an impact,” said Sandra Cuervo, building and code compliance manager for the town of Cutler Bay. “But the moment that the homeowner doesn’t renew a flood policy and goes to get flood insurance again, they will see the true flood risk.”
But owners of vacation or investment homes, business properties with subsidized premiums, and properties with multiple large flood claims will see an increase of 25 percent in premium rates each year until those premiums reflect full-risk rates.
The town had formed a Flood Mitigation Plan Advisory Committee to try and offset the rate hikes by improving drainage.
Now, Cutler Bay property owners get a 20 percent discount based on the town’s rating of 6 under the FEMA’s Community Rating System, or CRS. If the rating lowers to 5, the new discount would be 25 percent and could be effective by the end of 2014.
“Because of all of the issues with flooding in the area, we were able to qualify for a grant to get a flood mitigation plan,” said Sandra Cuervo, building and code compliance manager for the town of Cutler Bay. “We need to figure out what we can do and what areas can be improved to mitigate any potential flood hazards.”
The five-member committee, which includes specialists in real estate, public works and insurance, will hold its first public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Town Hall, 10720 Caribbean Blvd.
More than 268,000 Florida homeowners will see in increase in flood insurance rates as a result of the act. Residents of older homes and residents of non-elevated structures will see the largest impact as they are at a higher level of flood risk.
“We want to analyze and determine what we are doing in CRS and what is going on as far as areas that have more prone to flooding and figure out what can be done and what kind of projects need to be spelled out and what we can do to reduce our flood risk.
“I think there are several goals,” Cuervo said. “It will tie in to CRS and try to see if we can improve our rating so that our discount is higher but that is just one component. It’s how we can improve what we are doing right now so that we are not exposed. It’s about preparing and being able to plan short- and long-term for any flooding event.”