South Bethany resident submits FEMA appeal

Ed Bintz first raised the alarm about a drastic change in South Bethany’s flood insurance rate map (FIRM). Now he’s submitting a second and final appeal to encourage Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to lower the numbers again.

Owning an Ocean Drive house, Bintz heard in 2014 that his flood insurance premiums would decrease significantly when FEMA proposed lowering the base flood elevation (BFE) of the street from VE-12 feet to VE-10 feet. But when the public process was over, most of Ocean Drive instead leapt up to the VE-13 designation. That number indicates how high the house must be built, according to FEMA, to avoid flood and storm damage.

Realizing that FEMA might have taken a closer look at the numbers after receiving an inquiry from individual town council members, Bintz lobbied the council to fight for the original numbers to be reinstated. FEMA agreed to re-open the public process, but residents still face a BFE of 13 feet.

Recently, the council sent an appeal on behalf of the Town, but individuals were allowed to appeal, too. They just had to request the council approve their sending of an appeal.

Approving Bintz’s appeal does not make the Town liable for it.

“It doesn’t represent how the Town feels. … We have no opinion,” said Mayor Pat Voveris. “We’re merely the vehicle” for sending it.

Having received the paperwork on Jan. 19, the council called an “emergency meeting” for Jan. 20, in order to send the appeal on time. The Town understood that the FEMA deadline was Jan. 20, although Bintz said he believed that was his deadline to approach the Town.

After the council agreed to send Bintz’s appeal, they sent the paperwork to FEMA by email and official courier.

In that brief meeting, Voveris said that she, along with Councilmen Tim Saxton, Wayne Schrader and Frank Weisgerber were just enough council members to make a quorum. There were no call-ins by other council members, and no members of the public at the meeting.

Bintz has frequently questioned FEMA’s reasoning for changing the BFE by 3 feet, seemingly on a whim, he said, especially when neighboring towns’ BFE didn’t increase that much.

While Bintz didn’t indicate the specifics of his appeal, he said it includes some details from the town council appeal, plus others.

“I studied things and just viewed things a little bit differently than them,” Bintz told the Coastal Point.

In December, the council had voted, 4-3, to make an appeal based on the protective power of South Bethany’s dunes.

Appeals must be scientifically grounded for FEMA to take note, officials have said.

FEMA officials had previously indicated that the Town’s appeal could be answered by May, although there is no anticipated timeline on Bintz’s appeal.