Holmes Beach public works superintendent Joe Duennes responded Oct. 18 to concerns about building department decisions on four recently remodeled ground-floor homes with a one-page letter.
In an Oct. 8 letter, Steven Martin, program manager of the Florida Division of Emergency Management State Floodplain Management Office, sought backup information and reminded the city to update its code to reflect new Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.
Martin coordinates with local governments for FEMA, which manages the National Flood Insurance Program for new construction in flood-prone areas.
“More than one citizen has recently expressed concerns about the city’s permitting process and enforcement of its floodplain ordinance concerning substantial improvements,” Martin wrote.
The letter included a Power Point presentation on the properties at 606 Crestwood Lane, 531 Key Royal Drive, 302 67th St. and 207/209 55th St.
Martin asked that the city respond and “provide detailed determinations” to indicate the remodeling did not exceed 50 percent of the market value prior to the structural improvements and to include elevation certificates for improved structures in flood-hazard areas.
“If such properties underwent substantial improvements, then they should meet the city’s ordinance, including elevation above the base flood level, and comply with minimum requirements of NFIP,” Martin wrote.
In his Oct. 18 letter, Duennes said, “Elevation certificates are not required for improvement projects under 50 percent, although some homeowners choose to have one prepared.”
In the Oct. 8 letter, Martin followed up on his agency’s May visit to the city. He said while the agency found “no apparent potential violations,” there were “several problems” with the city’s flood damage prevention ordinance that the city was late in addressing.
The report asked the city to revise its ordinance to conform with 2010 state building code amendments no later than Aug. 23.
Duennes and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said city attorney Patricia Petruff is in the process of drafting such an ordinance, which will be sent to FEMA for review before it comes before the city commission.
“We are not concerned with it,” Bohnenberger said about the Martin letter. “We’re confident we’ll be in compliance.”
Holmes Beach, like other cities, police permits in accordance with local ordinances that incorporate FEMA guidelines to ensure homes are built or remodeled with safeguards against flooding.
“I just think they want more information and then they’ll decide,” Duennes added. “And I just anticipate them coming down and going through our files because that’s what happened in the past.”
The city adopted a new flood plain ordinance that included FEMA guidelines after a floodplain audit in 2007.
To meet the pre-August FEMA guidelines, if a remodeling project is proposed on a property below base-flood elevation, the first-floor living area must be built off the ground, or contractors and owners’ cost affidavits and an appraisal must show new costs are no more than 50 percent of the market value of the structure.
Discussion at city commission meetings over the past year has included complaints that contractors are submitting questionable affidavits as to the 50 percent rule, practically demolishing the structure and re-building without elevating the structure.
This summer the city began requiring demolition permits and inspections prior to the issuance of building permits.
Bohnenberger, who is up for re-election Nov. 6, said the complaints likely came from “a contractor who did not get the project,” and someone who thinks a person “can drive by and tell substantial improvements from the road.” He specified the complainant may have been Steve and Judy Holmes Titsworth.
Judy Titsworth, who is running for one of two commission seats against incumbents Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti, and newcomer, Marvin Grossman, has been outspoken on the subject of ground-level improvements that exceed the 50 percent rule, but she denied making the FEMA complaint. Her husband also denied making such a complaint.
“We brought it to the city’s attention only,” said Judy Titsworth.
She added, “Steve followed it up with a letter to all the commissioners. It’s now part of the FEMA investigation because it was in public records.”
Titsworth said she warned Bohnenberger and Duennes in August that she knew of another citizen who had complained to FEMA, but she kept the complainant’s name confidential.
Bohnenberger and Titsworth agree that compliance to the flood plain management ordinance and the substantial improvements rule is important so it does not jeopardize flood-insurance discounts for all residents.
Holmes Beach response, values
Holmes Beach public works superintendent Joe Duennes wrote Oct. 18 to the state coordinating agency for the Federal Management Emergency Agency that details the values and appraisal amounts used to make building permit approvals for four ground-level home remodel projects.
According to pre-August FEMA guidelines, for projects below the base flood elevation level, contractors and owners’ cost affidavits and an appraisal must show new costs are no more than 50 percent of the market value of the structure.
The information Duennes provided to Martin includes the following addresses and values:
Address Depreciated value Project cost
per certified per owner,
appraisal contractor affidavit
207/209 55th St. $252,974 $119,600
302 67th St. $382,200 $121,550
606 Crestwood $612,284 $299,499.20
531 Key Royale $307,919 $113,500