Last updated: July 01. 2014 11:23PM - 2223 Views
By Geri Gibbons Times Leader Correspondent

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EXETER — Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on hand on Tuesday night to field questions from Exeter residents about the rezoning of properties to officially place many within the flood plain.

The properties had previously been zoned as low risk in regard to any threat of flooding.

Residents of Wildflower Village and Fox Meadows developments would be greatly affected by the remapping, which would result in residents in those communities being required to purchase flood insurance if they carry mortgages.

Pam Fenner, of Fox Meadows, said she was worried about devaluations of affected properties, in addition to the actual costs of flood insurance set by FEMA.

“For 22 years, no flood insurance was required in our community,” said Fenner, “and suddenly we have been rezoned from ‘X’ (deemed as having little risk of flooding) to ‘A’ (deemed at very high risk for flooding).”

Kristin Magnotta, representing U.S. Sen. Robert Casey’s office, said Mayor Cassandra Coleman-Corcoran had reached out to the office to request assistance in clarification and communication about the remapping.

Magnotta assured attendees at the meeting that questions they posed would be timely addressed and the office would offer continuing assistance to those with questions.

Richard Sobota, FEMA insurance specialist, said the area remapping was a result of a continuing effort by that agency to keep current with risks of flooding.

Sobota said mapping cannot completely predict future flooding risk because of new information constantly be acquired by the agency.

At one point, Sobota said, “Even if a map is 50 percent accurate, it’s better than no map at all.”

He qualified his remark by saying the cost of mapping necessitates that the agency move forward with the best information available to it “at that time.”

Dave Bollinger, FEMA outreach coordinator, said FEMA’s remapping of the area was based on the best topography and technology available.

Residents were visibly frustrated because most said their homes had never been flooded. Many have lived in the remapped areas for decades.

Many of those affected were older, and they said the added cost of flood insurance would put an unfair burden on them, straining their finances.

Residents had previously been affected by FEMA’s July 2012 decision to terminate flood insurance subsidies, resulting in additional costs to homeowners required to carry flood insurance.

Sobota said that decision had been reversed and in some cases, those subsidies would be reinstated, as a result of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, “delaying implementation of certain provisions of the previous Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act,” which initially terminated those subsidies.

Remapping of areas of Luzerne and Wyoming counties are projected to become official sometime in October. However, in anticipation of that change, many lenders are requiring flood insurance of mortgage holders and buyers immediately.

Residents can appeal FEMA’s remapping within 90 days of its finalization. Homeowners can also appeal on a case-by-case basis by forwarding a “Letter of Map Change” addressing individual properties.

Insurance agent Frank Maher said he was aware of several people on fixed incomes whose insurance costs would double or triple should the remapping go into effect.

Attendees said the area had truly been historically hard hit by flooding. To many, it seemed as if the FEMA’s remapping project has been an additional, and perhaps unnecessary, challenge to area residents.

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