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BB releases flood plain mitigation plan, insurance may rise

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach public building official Steve Gilbert said changes to the National Flood Insurance Program will likely lead to higher premiums, but there are things the city can do to help keep premiums down.

A Sept. 24 report detailing the city’s strategies in flood plain mitigation was prepared by Gilbert. It focuses on what the city is doing and should do in the future.

In a memo to city commissioners, Gilbert explains the city is part of the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program. As such, he said the city identifies programs and activities to help prevent flood damage, and is subsequently awarded discounts on insurance premiums for the city and its residents.

Gilbert’s six-page report emphasizes what the city can do to continue to benefit from the program that reduces flood insurance premiums in the city.

“The city has continued to address the stormwater master plan developed in 2006,” Gilbert reports. “Implementation of mitigation projects for street flooding and surface-water management continued in the last fiscal year … and several other smaller projects for shoreline protection have been identified and addressed.”

Gilbert identified some of the major issues facing the city and what the city has done, or plans on doing, to address those issues.

Coastal conservation is one concern. Gilbert is recommending regulations within the land-development code to ensure new development and substantial improvements in the environmental zones include coastal dune mitigation projects, appropriate dune vegetation planting and the installation of bollards to create beach access points.

Commissioners have been reviewing the LDC for several weeks now and are getting closer to finalizing the goal of bringing the LDC into compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan. The deadline to submit the LDC to the state is the end of October.

Gilbert said he recommends more public-private partnerships to protect and enhance the dunes, “as they are our only defense at this time to storm surge and resulting washouts of Gulf Drive, our only means of evacuation and recovery.”

Gilbert points to the controversial project between the city and the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., as an example of more public-private partnerships, but that project is currently being challenged in the court system.

Three Bradenton Beach residents, including two former planning and zoning board members are suing the city over that project, claiming it violates the city’s land-development code.

Gilbert also discusses in his report the hardening of city facilities, a subject that came up during the summer’s budget talks, as a means to better protect city buildings from storm damage.

Gilbert recommends commissioners follow through on discussions to install impact-resistant storm shutters and flood panels at city hall and the public works building.

“These hardening improvements are not extremely expensive,” Gilbert said. “Consider how much more expensive it may be if we are forced out of either facility due to flooding or wind damage.”

Gilbert said there have been discussions on relocating all city departments to the public works and police department property, but there has been no official action taken on developing a long-range plan to achieve that goal.

He is recommending that commissioners authorize funding to study the city’s facilities and make recommendations.

Also being considered as urgent are:

• Evacuation routes and stormwater impacts: Gilbert notes an ongoing potential for street flooding from Fifth Street South to 13th Street South, as well as Cortez Road to Seventh Street South.

Gilbert said the city already is identifying and making stormwater improvements, but would like to include those streets as part of the discussion, and recommends drainage improvements for Church and Highland avenues, as well as Bay Drive South.

He also recommends:

• Upgrade communications system: The city should enhance its digital capabilities for emergency management activities, and its warning system capabilities.

• Benchmark maintenance and data: The city should update its existing benchmarks for current standards, and to check benchmarks used for floodplain management for continuing accuracy. He will recommend authorizing staff to pursue an agreement with Manatee County’s surveying and engineering department to achieve that goal.

• Post-disaster redevelopment planning: An island wide post disaster redevelopment plan has existed since 1999, and the city also has participated with the county’s plan.

“Things change though, and it is time to begin the process of making this our own plan, addressing the needs and goals of Bradenton Beach for post-disaster redevelopment,” he said.

In closing, Gilbert said Congress has made some significant changes to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“We are assured that premiums will be increasing across the board,” he said. “Additionally, a number of changes are going to increase premiums for properties which are not the primary dwelling of the owner. We anticipate that almost every property will be financially impacted by these revisions.”

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