FEMA Elevation Violations Could Cost All Gulfport Homeowners - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

FEMA Elevation Violations Could Cost All Gulfport Homeowners

GULFPORT (WLOX)-- Gulfport city officials say they're at a standstill when it comes to trying to correct what FEMA calls dozens of violations of the government's base flood elevations. That's because the city says the list FEMA compiled is outdated. Even so, this week FEMA notified the city if not corrected, Gulfport's flood rating could be lowered. And that would raise the cost of flood insurance for all city residents by 10 percent.

On Rivers Bend Drive, FEMA lists six addresses in violation for having living space on the ground floor of a flood zone. Thursday, WLOX went to take a look. We found that two of those homes have been torn down. The owner of a third house on the list showed us how the lower enclosure, which FEMA calls a violation, is nothing more than a storage area.

Deputy building official Gary Anderson said, "We feel like a lot of these properties are going to come off of the list."

Anderson says city officials took FEMA's list and found that of the 162 properties in violation they believe there are only problems with about 35. Anderson says they hand delivered that information to FEMA.

"We're waiting to hear back from FEMA on what properties may still be an issue," he said.

Anderson said the city can't try to remedy any violations until it gets that updated list from FEMA. Then the city can begin trying to bring the remaining properties into compliance.

Neighbors pointed out one house on Rivers Bend Drive that does have living quarters and a bathroom on the ground floor, which would explain why it's on FEMA's non-compliant list. However, neighbors also say the house has been this way for decades. The other two nearby houses on the list are in the same predicament. 

Anderson said, "Some of these enclosures, we know, have been in place for considerable amount of time. One question we've got is, why are they hitting us with it now?"

Anderson says if just one house is in violation, all Gulfport residents might have to pay in the form of higher flood insurance premiums.

"It's kind of hard when you to go up to someone's home and tell them that they are not in compliance with a regulation and they may have to physically rip out half of their structure," said Anderson. 

A FEMA spokesperson told WLOX News the agency is reviewing the information Gulfport submitted and hopes to send the city a response soon. FEMA also said if Gulfport's flood rating is lowered, it could happen as early as October.

FEMA says the code violations came out of a routine inspection that is done in all cities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program about once every five years. The agency says Biloxi had an inspection in 2004. Picayune, Pascagoula, D'Iberville and Gautier have all had inspections since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

by Danielle Thomas

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