Impact of Flood Insurance Rise Is Considered

Oceanfront area is now in the most hazardous flood zone

    A conservation easement on property near Georgica Cove and the effect of prospective federal flood insurance rate increases on oceanfront properties enlivened discussion at the East Hampton Village Board’s work session last Thursday. Becky Molinaro, the village administrator, explained the issues surrounding the easement and George Yates of the village insurance firm Dayton, Ritz and Osborne updated board members on flood insurance.

    The New York City-based Trust for Public Land holds a conservation easement on a five-plus-acre lot at the intersection of Cove Hollow Farm and Ruxton Roads. The Peconic Land Trust has title to the underlying property. Ms. Molinaro said the Trust for Public Land could no longer meet its obligation to visit the property annually and had offered to donate the easement to the village. Linda Riley, the village attorney, said the board would have to hold a public hearing before  authorizing the easement’s acquisition.

     Barbara Borsack, a village trustee, asked what restrictions were placed on the property. No structures are permitted, Ms. Riley said, and it either must be left in a natural state or used for agriculture. She said the Peconic Land Trust had expressed an interest in letting the property revert to its natural state.

    “Then you wouldn’t have any view,” Ms. Borsack said. “Once it does that, you wouldn’t see anything.” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said that should not deter the board from moving ahead. “I think this would be a nice marriage into properties that somehow are under stewardship, if you will, of the village,” he said. Ms. Riley said hay has been grown on the property, and the land mowed once a year. “You’d probably have more to say about what goes on there if you own the easement than if you don’t,” she said.

    “It’s in our best interest to move ahead,” the mayor said. “We’ll do that by way of the appropriate public hearing, and let the public speak.” The hearing will likely be held next month.

    Mr. Yates provided an update on the National Flood Insurance Program, and predicted sizable premium increases. He reminded board members that coastal properties here had been remapped, including the Main Beach pavilion. “All that oceanfront area is now going to be in . . . the most hazardous flood zone and as a result carries the highest rates,” Mr. Yates told the board.

    “This is part of the reform that happened after Sandy to make the federal flood program sustainable.” He noted that the program is operating with a deficit of approximately $25 billion.

    “Eventually, we’re going to have to have elevation certificates for all those oceanfront properties that are now in more hazardous flood zones,” Mr. Yates said. “Obviously, we can’t elevate all these buildings, so there will be consequences in the fairly near future, probably . . . next November.”

    The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, introduced in Congress in October, would impose a four-year delay on implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Law, which was passed in 2012 to stabilize the program’s finances by setting rates to more accurately reflect risk. A vote has not been scheduled on the proposed law.

    “ I fear there will be a gradual, four-year roll-on of these additional rates,” Mr. Yates said. “But there’s no other market than the federal program.”