News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 14, 2014
Special town meeting set for flood plain appeal funding

by Rich Hewitt

Selectmen on Monday set August 25 as the date for a special town meeting to seek voter approval for funding to appeal the proposed flood plain maps for a portion of the town.

The selectmen will seek approval to transfer $22,000 from surplus to fund the appeal. That’s the amount that Robert Gerber, a senior engineer with Ransom Consulting Engineers in Portland, included in his proposal to prepare and file the appeal. In a letter to selectmen, Gerber indicated he would need to start working on the appeal by September 1 in order to file the appeal within the 90-day deadline set by FEMA which has prepared the Floodplain Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for the town as part of a nationwide update of those maps. The 90-day clock started ticking last weekend.

The maps are a key component of the federal Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood insurance for properties located in towns that are part of the program. They delineate areas at high risk for flooding and also establish base flood levels for those areas in the flood plain.

Although the maps affect the entire town, the appeal will focus on just three specific areas that have been placed in the high-risk category as a result of the changes in the maps: the downtown area, Moose Island and the Burnt Cove area. Gerber had previously indicated that preparing an appeal for the entire town would cost too much.

Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris said the special town meeting was needed because the town has not budgeted funds for the appeal process. Although the town had been aware that the new maps were being prepared, selectmen did not know they would need to appeal the designations on the maps when they were preparing the budget this year, Billings-Pezaris said.

“If we don’t get the money, we can’t do the appeal,” she said.

Local officials have been concerned that the change in designations along the town’s shorefront could have dire consequences for property owners and for the town. In addition to the potential for increased flood insurance premiums, the changes could result in stiffer building requirements within the high-risk zones that could deter future buyers and stifle economic development.

Billings-Pezaris said she will prepare the warrant for the special town meeting for the selectmen to sign at their next meeting, August 18. The town clerk will post the warrant that night in order to meet the legal, seven-day posting requirement to hold the meeting on August 25.

That warrant also will include some other articles:

• accepting a parcel of land on Memorial Lane that will help to clear town ownership of the road;

• transferring funds to the winter road account for salt and sand, estimated at about $20,000;

• granting an easement between the Evergreen and Woodlawn cemeteries for the water company to access water lines on property owned by David and Evelyn Duncan. The easement could also be used by a cell tower company interested in erecting a tower on that property to provide cell service to the downtown area.

In other action, the selectmen authorized the sale by bid of three properties taken by the town for non-payment of taxes. The board also set minimum bids they will accept for those properties. The minimum bids were based on the assessed value of each property. Selectmen noted that this was the first time in many years that they had put foreclosed properties up for sale.

The properties to be advertised for sale are two Oceanville Road parcels with minimum bids of $20,000 and $12,000 respectively. The third property is a half interest in Andrews Island, located just off Sand Beach. The minimum bid is $120,000.