North Carolina County Plans to Remove Thousands of Homes From Flood Zones

July 21, 2016

New maps for Dare County, N.C., are removing thousands of homes and lots from flood zones, creating a need to update local building codes that until now accounted for more rising water.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports that, according to maps released last month, 15,970 buildings are either removed from a flood zone or placed in a zone where the hazard is reduced. The preliminary maps show entire neighborhoods in Nags Head, Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are suddenly not so prone to surging water.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires that each state produce the maps about every 10 years. The new maps will not take effect for 18 months to two years, after an appeal period and time for local governments to update ordinances.

“Regardless of what the maps say, there is a flood risk in Dare County,” said Donna Creef, director of the Dare County Planning Department. “It’s just a line on a map, and Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature is going to do.”

When the new maps take effect, the height required for the first floor of a building – or base flood elevation – would be cut in half in many cases. In the Kitty Hawk Landing neighborhood, for example, the first floor must be more than 9 feet above mean sea level, said Rob Testerman, director of planning and inspections for the town of Kitty Hawk. That could be reduced to about 5 feet.

Dare County and its towns will have to adjust the ordinances to account for the new maps in the next few months, Creef said. Municipalities may impose rules to keep homes higher than state maps call for. Bottom floors now only good for parking or storage could be enclosed for living space. That may require code changes, she said. Building height limits may change.

Dale Beasley’s mobile home stands 4 feet above ground. Hurricane Irene pushed water into his living room. Across the mobile home park’s single driveway, his brother’s mobile home stands well above ground on massive treated posts.

Beasley is still in a flood zone even with the new maps, and he is good with that.

“If we get the right hurricane, you won’t have to worry about it anyway,” he said.

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