At the April 9th Kingsland City Council meeting, the Council voted 3-2, with Mayor Smith breaking the tie, to amend the newly created freeboard city ordinance height of a home from 3-feet to 1-foot.
The ordinance was created in December of 2017 after concerns of flooding and draining issues throughout the city exposed by Hurricane Irma. Councilman Jim McClain brought the amendment to the council for a vote.
“Regulation is a landowner’s worse enemy because it takes away value. We don’t know what the future holds for us. We did have some flooding. We already have enough regulations through wetlands and other things,” said Councilman Jim McClain.
What is freeboard?
The freeboard height of a home is considered a safety factor to help reduce potential flooding of a home which is a standard set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Such as safety factor help mitigate flooding of homes in areas near floodway conditions such as wave action, storm surge, and other waterway effects.
The National Flood Insurance Program does not require specific freeboard heights, but communities like Kingsland, who suffered serious flooding during Hurricane Irma, are encouraged to adopt at least one-foot freeboard to account floodway encroachment. The freeboard rule results in significantly lower flood insurance rates due to lower flood risk.
Local builders challenged the 3-feet freeboard height and suggested the council lower it from 3-feet to 1-foot as other surrounding communities such as St. Marys, Glynn County, and Nassau County, FL all have at 1-foot freeboard heights. It was recommended by the city planning commission in December 2017 to raise the height to 1-feet, but the city planner wanted it raised to 3-feet to limit flooding concerns.
Local builders, Josh Josselyn and Ron Sawyer, challenged the city planner on the location of the freeboard height was too broad throughout the city. They suggested the city planner forgets the flooding concerns were due to drainage problems and not the height of the homes. Both builders stated that the extra feet added to the base of the home would increase the cost for consumers and make the area less competitive with surrounding communities that kept the freeboard at 1-foot.
“The cost to go up to three 3-feet could be as much as $10,000. It changes the whole construction style and technique. Going from 1 foot to 3-feet is astronomical in construction.” explained Josselyn. “These houses are not $500,000 houses. Ten-thousand dollars is real money for a $200,000 home.”
Councilman Grayson Day said that many residents had concerns about the flooding and drainage issues throughout the city and residents packed the city council chambers wanting resolutions to minimize flooding.
“Perhaps a compromise of 2-feet will ensure a little bit of safety for future homeowners and give the builders a little bit of what they need to make their product profitable and still meet the needs of a homeowner,” said Day.
The two-feet compromise was rejected with a 2-2 split vote with the Mayor voting in against the of the two-feet compromise. Then another motion was made to amend the ordinance to 1-foot freeboard passed in which Jim McClain and Mike McClain voted for the reduction to one foot and Councilman Day and Galloway voted to against the measure, splitting the vote again. Mayor Smith broke the tie, 3-2, and the 1-foot measure passed.
The 1-foot freeboard rule still allows residents to take advantage of lower insurance premiums if they participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.