Floodplain Management Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q – What is a flood zone?

A – Flood zones are established for the entire Town of Branford by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They range from areas subject to flooding in a 100 year storm to areas subject to minimal flooding.Flood Insurance Rate Maps (Firm) prepared by FEMA showing the flood zones in Branford are available on FEMA's website or can be accessed from the town web site. FEMA no longer prints or distributes paper copies of FIRM maps. If you do not have access to a computer please contact the Engineering office to male an appointment for assistance.

Q – What is a 100 year flood?

A – A 100 year flood is a storm event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any year. As this is a calculated statistical return, a 100 year storm may occur more than once in one year or not at all for more than 100 years.

Q – Are there different 100 year flood zones?

A – Yes. FEMA has established many zones for Branford. There are two categories – stillwater zones or A zones and wave action zones or V zones. Each different zone has a different 100 year flood elevation.

Q – What are the 100 year flood elevations based upon?

A -  They are based upon the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88). Town topographical maps are on the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD29) with elevation zero (0) approximately halfway between high and low tide elevations. The difference between these two datums is approximately one foot (1.0'). For example; and NAVD88 (FEMA) elevation of 12 feet is comparable to an NGVD29 (town) elevation of 13 feet.

Q – Are there other agencies which may have jurisdiction over activities in the floodplain?

A – Yes. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ct. Department of Environmental Protection, Branford Building Department, Inland Wetlands Commission and Planning and Zoning may also have jurisdiction over these areas. You should contact these agencies as appropriate to insure compliance with all applicable regulations.

Q – Another term used is “floodway”. What is this?

A – Branford has two different types of flood events that govern the floodplain – tidal and river flooding. Floodways refer to areas along the Branford River (typically the main channel plus an additional area on each side) which must be kept clear so that the flow of the Branford River is not blocked. No improvements of any kind are allowed within the floodway which could impede the river flow.

Q – Am I required to have flood insurance?

A – Theoretically, every property in the 100 year floodplain should have flood insurance. Flood insurance may be appropriate for many other properties in town outside the 100 year floodplain as well. Practically, the requirement is enforced by mortgaging institutions which are then audited by federal regulators to insure that all properties are covered. The mortgaging institution has sole discretion in requiring flood insurance. The Town of Branford is not involved in these determinations.

Q – When is a floodplain permit required?

A – A floodplain permit is required for work on any structure or site within the 100 year floodplain.

Q – I want to improve my residence, but I’m in a 100 year floodplain. What should I do?

A – Several steps are necessary, but the first is to determine the lowest floor elevation, including basement, of the structure. If you have an Elevation Certificate produced by a licensed land surveyor, this information is on that form. If not, you should have a licensed land surveyor determine these elevations for you.

Q – My first floor and basement are above the 100 year flood elevation. What must I do to meet the requirements of the ordinance?

A – A floodplain permit is required and you may proceed with your project as long as you do not create any living space or additional floors below the 100 year flood elevation.

Q – My first floor is above the 100 year flood plain elevation, but my basement is below. What must I do to meet the requirements of the ordinance?

A – The first step is to determine if your project is a “substantial improvement”

Q – What is a “substantial improvement”?

A – A “substantial improvement” is defined as any improvements or alterations of a structure where the total value of all work exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure alone (land value is not included) in any one year period. Undertaking “substantial improvement” requires that you must make the structure fully compliant with the Floodplain Management Ordinance. The value of the structure alone can be obtained from the Assessor’s Office field card for the property, an appraisal you may have had done for the property or by engaging a real estate agent or appraiser for an opinion of the structure’s market value.

Q – How is “any one year period” defined?

A – All work must be completed and then a one year period must transpire before any additional permits for work are issued. This time period is only important if it is desired to keep the work from becoming a “substantial improvement”.

Q – I plan to do the work myself. Is the value of my labor exempt?

A – No. The value of the improvements is determined by the fair market value of the work as if done by a contractor – all materials, labor, etc must be included.

Q – My project is not a substantial improvement. What must I do to meet the requirements of the ordinance?

A – A floodplain permit is required and you may proceed with your project as long as it does not become a substantial improvement.

Q – My project is a substantial improvement. My first floor is above the 100 year floodplain elevation, but my basement is below. What must I do to meet the requirements of the ordinance?

A – You must make your structure fully compliant with the floodplain ordinance. Depending on the site specifics, this could involve minor or major work. Minor work could involve moving all utilities, including furnace, above the base flood elevation and installing flood ports in the basement walls. Major work could involve filling in the basement or other alterations. Please call and make an appointment to discuss the specifics of your project and how to make it fit the ordinance.

Q – My project does not fit any of these categories. What should I do?

A - Please call and make an appointment to discuss the specifics of your project and how to make it fit the ordinance. We will be happy to discuss the options and give you additional information.

 

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