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Cape looks to change flood zone ranking

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 20, 2022

The city of Cape Coral is looking to reduce the cost of flood insurance for residents.

The issue has become important since many homeowners were impacted catastrophically by Hurricane Ian and the flood insurance rating could determine whether people can repair their homes or rebuild them according to FEMA flood regulations.

Wyatt Daltrey, city planning team co-ordinator, told the Cape Coral City Council Wednesday that 35 percent of the city’s buildable area is in a special flood zone. Some 36,000 structures are located in that area, and everyone who holds a mortgage must have flood insurance, which is 34,000 policies in force citywide.

Cape Coral is a member of the National Flood Insurance Program and the Community Ratings system.

The CRS has Cape Coral as a Class 5 community, which confers a 25 percent discount on flood insurance premiums, which results in a $7.8 million savings to premium holders in Cape Coral.

The CRS audits the city every three years, with the last one having occurred Sept. 2. The results are pending, but the city expects to hold onto its Class 5 ranking, with a 50/50 chance of earning the points necessary to become a Class 4 community, which would mean an additional 5 percent in savings, though there would be some things the city would need to do, a process already begun.

Ian impacted the city heavily, with storm surge estimated between 7 and 8 feet. Most homes affected were built before 1981 (mostly in the southeast Cape) when the city joined the NFIP and before flood maps and minimum elevations.

Those structures in the Special Flood Hazard Area are exposed to the 50 percent rule, meaning if a structure receives greater than 50 percent or greater damage in market value and is not consistent with required flood elevation, the house may only be rebuilt.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard said he is seeing people in his district actively hiring people to rebuild.

“They don’t know if the money they’re spending is a total waste. Many people know nothing. I tell them what I know and I’m not fully educated. I want to find a way to educate people,” Sheppard said. “You spend $20,000 on new sheetrock and then find out you wasted your money. These people are already devastated. I don’t want to add to their problem.”

City Manager Rob Hernandez said the message should be for people whose homes were built before 1981 to call before they do any renovation because the house may need to be rebuilt.

Getting people that information may be tough, since some still don’t have internet or their mailbox has been blown over and hasn’t been replaced. It may become a door-to-door situation.

“Getting into the neighborhoods is the only way we’re going to be able get people the information. We have to get creative,” Councilmember Gloria Tate said.