Many shore municipalities, including Ocean City, are now adopting the Preliminary Work Flood Maps promulgated by FEMA as the official Flood Insurance Rate Maps (or "FIRM") of the municipality. These maps contain areas known as "Coastal A" zones that may be subject to waves of 1.5 feet or more. The state building code now has requirements for construction in these zones that become effective once the maps are officially adopted as the municipal FIRM.
The building code requires that buildings and structures constructed in whole or in part in Coastal A Zones be elevated on piles or piers with the lowest horizontal member located above the design flood elevation, not just the floor system. For example, in Ocean City the design flood elevation is base flood elevation ("BFE") plus 2 feet of freeboard measured to the bottom of any non-flood resistant constuction. With regard to new construction in a Costal A Zone, enclosures below the design flood elevation are allowed but must be constructed with breakaway walls, which are designed and constructed to fail under flood conditions without causing additional flooding to the building's foundation, and without producting debris damage to the structure or adjacent structures. Breakaway walls are expensive and can cause a construction project to become cost-prohibitive if not budgeted for in advance.
To determine whether your property is located in a Coastal A Zone, you may consult FEMA's Address Lookup Website located at: www.region2coastal.com/what-is-my-bfe-address-lookup-tool/ or by contacting your municipal construction office.
Your municipality may have already adopted the Preliminary Work Flood Maps as its FIRM, and thus if your property is located in a "Costal A" Zone, you will be subject to these new construction requirements. For more information, contact Keith Davis, Esquire or Michael Peacock, Esquire at (609) 927-1177.