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Help offered in flood insurance dispute ; Residents to be given options for dealing with map issues

The town is offering help to residents who are just learning that their properties have been added to federal flood plain maps, requiring them to buy flood insurance.

Councilman Mark C. Crocker said at Wednesday's meeting of the Town Board that homeowners who have not followed the two-year process of revising the maps may call him to see what can be done.

There are options to escape what would normally be a flood insurance mandate enforced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Crocker said.

Those with mortgages have been receiving letters from their banks recently, announcing the demand for flood insurance.

Crocker said the new FEMA maps were published in September. "It's taken awhile for the banks to catch up," he said.

The letters don't tell the whole story. They don't mention whether an entire property is in the flood plain, or only part of it.

"Some banks, if the flood plain is not touching the foundation itself, will still require insurance. Some will not," Crocker said.

But he said that he recently fielded 20 calls from residents and that in 18 cases, the banks were willing to accept the town's flood elevation measurements, which differ from FEMA's and often place properties above flood level, freeing them from the insurance mandate.

The town's engineers took their elevations on the ground, instead of using a laser-guided device in a low-flying plane, as FEMA did.

Town Clerk Nancy A. Brooks is one of the affected homeowners. She said she filled out a form called a Letter of Map Amendment, using a town-generated map to argue that her house isn't in a flood plain.

Brooks said she's now in the 60-day period to wait for a reply.

"We're getting down to inches now," Supervisor Marc R. Smith said. "[The flood zone boundary] is literally inches from the foundation, and we've got these 'nastygrams' going back and forth."

Crocker said no flood insurance is mandatory for a homeowner who doesn't have a mortgage.

But Councilman Paul H. Pettit said that if you don't buy it, "you're not going to get any FEMA assistance [if there's a flood], either, so it's a double-edged sword."

Crocker said he will take calls from worried homeowners at 434-0898.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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