Flood insurance policies will end in Wayne County unless Wayne County commissioners approve new flood maps and a new flood damage prevention ordinance by June 20.
"In order to participate in the national flood insurance program you have to have this ordinance in place and these maps adopted," Assistant County Manager Chip Crumpler said. "They are not telling you that you have to do it, but if you are going to participate in the national flood insurance program, and if your citizens are going to have access to flood insurance, you are going to have these ordinances in place."
Crumpler briefed Wayne County commissioners on the proposed ordinance during their Tuesday morning meeting.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency redid the county's flood maps about two years ago, but they were never adopted or made effective, Crumpler said.
But the county has been informed the maps will become effective June 20.
"Along with that, we need to adopt a new flood damage prevention ordinance for the county," he said. "With it comes a lot of definitions and clarifications and things of that nature."
Crumpler told commissioners he was not asking for any action at the meeting.
He asked the board instead to read the document and that at the board's next meeting he would provide a summary of changes from the current to new ordinance.
Wayne County started participating in the national flood insurance program in the 1980s, he said.
The county's first flood maps were drawn up in 1983, and the first flood damage prevention ordinance was enacted, Crumpler said.
The ordinance was revised in 2005.
Officials with the flood insurance program rate a county every five years, Crumpler said.
That rating dictates what premiums residents in the county will pay for their flood insurance coverage, he said.
Wayne County has always maintained a high rating and has a good discount of about 20 percent off of the insurance premiums across the board, Crumpler said.
The county recently underwent a rating review, and how some of the points are calculated were changed, he said.
"We don't know the outcome of that yet," Crumpler said. "They have not notified us yet. I anticipate that it will go down some. I don't know if it will drop the percentage of discount or not."
However, there are things the county can do in addition to the maps and ordinance to help bolster the rating, he said.
"One of them, we added in here, and it is an option for your election, is to not allow building on fill in a flood zone," he said. "That would help us keep that insurance discount where it is."
Fill is when a material is used to build up a low-lying area in order to build on it.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery expressed concern about prohibiting building on fill in a flood zone.
It has generally been an accepted practice to raise up the area where someone could build a home, Daughtery said. That is very common in eastern North Carolina, he said.
That is a determination commissioners will have to make, Crumpler said.
Daughtery asked Crumpler how many acres would be affected by such a requirement.
More than 20,000 acres, Crumpler said.
"You may accumulate points, but if you are not able to develop a 10th of the county," Daughtery started.
"It doesn't say that you can't develop it -- you can't develop it on fill," Crumpler said. "You can build a foundation that elevates the structure to base flood elevation plus 2 feet."
The areas are in a flood zone, and anytime an area is filled and there is a flood it pushes water on a neighbor's property or further downstream, he said.
The state Office of Emergency Management is recommending that provision, Crumpler said.
The proposal has been through the Wayne County Planning Board that agreed to send it on to commissioners for review, he said.
A second option is a conversion agreement so that when someone elevates a home they have to sign an agreement not to convert the lower level into living space, he said.
The county currently does not have that, and adding it will also provide extra rating points, Crumpler said.
One of the changes is to clarify how high a building's heating and air conditioning units have to be -- 2 feet -- above the base flood level.
That was unclear in the existing ordinance, Crumpler said.
Commissioners are required by law to hold a public hearing on the ordinance before it can be adopted, he said.
All property owners that will be affected have to be notified by first class mail just as they would be in a zoning issue, Crumpler said.
On the bottom of the public hearing notice is a name, email address and phone number for people who have questions before the public hearing, he said.
The questions will be answered prior to the public hearing, or at the public hearing, Crumpler said.
Also, if there are objections to an ordinance, commissioners normally do not vote on it at the same meeting as the public hearing, but instead withhold a vote to a future date to hear all complaints or all questions and comments, he said.