The following was submitted by Councilman-at-Large/Council President George Wittmann and is published unedited per our letters policy.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has recently released the new flood maps for the Township. For the majority of our residents that live in waterfront areas, the maps represent a major change from the advisory maps issued in December of last year. The township council went on record in opposition of the maps issued in December, and these new maps have changed most of the township back to an A zone designation from a V zone. FEMA estimates that the reduction in Ocean County is 46 percent, and in Toms River it is much higher. In addition, the new maps reflect the Sandy high water marks, and have reduced the base flood elevation by as much as 2 feet from the maps issued in December. The township engineering staff is conducting a detailed analysis of the new maps to ensure that information provided is accurate and that any anomalies are identified and brought to the attention of FEMA’s engineers. Our residents should now be able to move ahead with their rebuilding plans with a lot more confidence as these maps represent the best available information and will not change going forward.
There have been a number of questions about what height someone should build to be in compliance with the flood insurance provisions, and FEMA now has a hotline to help answer these questions. The number is 877-287-9804. Residents can now get the flood insurance rates based on their current situation, and also what the cost for insurance will be if they raise their home one, two or three feet above the recommended flood height.
The township council, mayor and administration have been anticipating the release of these maps and have taken the following steps to ensure that residents can get answers in a timely fashion:
1. Sandy Ombudsman is working at the township substation in the A&P shopping center in Ortley Beach one night a week, and also at the Senior Center and Silverton Fire House to answer questions. This schedule is posted on the township website.
2. We have added three contract engineers who are working on the first floor of town hall next to the security desk to answer questions on these new maps. They are available Monday to Friday during normal business hours.
3. We have hired 4 additional clerks to process permits in the building department.
4. We have added a building inspector to work at the counter and help answer technical questions that the public might have.
5. Additional inspectors from the state are working in the township to supplement our staff and to allow our subcode officials to review and approve permit applications instead of conducting inspections.
6. Numerous checklists have been created and are available online to help the public get through the permit process.
7. The Township has added an additional zoning officer position to help review zoning permits.
8. The height ordinance has been modified to allow for the increase in base flood elevations resulting from the changes to the maps.
9. The zoning ordinance has been changed to take into account the setbacks, decks and other issues resulting from the changes to the flood maps. This ordinance was put into effect on June 20th.
I am also pleased to report that the State has awarded the township 15.6 million dollars in the form of a Community Block Development Grant to help us deal with the loss in revenue resulting from Sandy. This will go a long way towards helping our township deal with the aftermath of Sandy, and I would like to personally thank the Mayor and Administrator, Paul Shives for their efforts in securing this grant from the state.
The Township is not resting on its laurels and is not making excuses for some of the issues that have resulted from Hurricane Sandy. I encourage anyone that has a suggestion, complaint or any constructive criticism to reach out to the mayor, the council and the administration to see if we can fix the problem, modify a process, or answer a question.
We are not looking for accolades, but for solutions and will take any idea from the public that will help move the ball forward. Sometimes the implementation of a suggestion is not possible due to constraints such as CAFRA regulations, zoning laws and the like, but we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get this town back on its feet. We are all in this together!