The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will hold a workshop on Thursday, April 6 at 10 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center to reexamine certain provisions in the FEMA-required floodplain ordinance. The workshop will also be shown on MCTV.

The ordinance was adopted in November 2022 and became effective on March 7, 2023. The public, including construction and real estate industry members, are invited to provide input on potential changes to the ordinance, including updates to the regulation of downstairs enclosures below base flood elevation, and continuation of the requirement that enclosures are inspected when there is a transfer of ownership. The BOCC also approved a resolution limiting liability for home sellers and buyers through September 1, 2023 that may be affected by the ordinance. The Building Department is updating procedures for the required inspections of downstairs enclosures to integrate with the County’s new online permitting system.

Background
The FEMA-required floodplain ordinance allows Monroe County to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Community Rating System (CRS), which discounts NFIP-backed flood insurance policies. The ordinance took effect on March 7, 2023, upon completing the state’s review process for certain ordinances governing areas of critical state concern, such as Monroe County.  The BOCC adopted the updated ordinance on November 15, 2022 following three Community Meetings and recommendations of approval from the Development Review Committee and the Monroe County Planning Commission.

The ordinance is critical for the Florida Division of Emergency Management to deem the County’s Floodplain Management Ordinance compliant with NFIP requirements and for the County’s next CRS verification in 2023. The updated ordinance includes non-conversion agreements and inspections for any structure (including underneath the house or accessory structures) below base flood elevation for new builds or houses built after June 15, 1973. While the downstairs enclosure inspection form is listed on the County’s building website, the building department has not had the capacity to complete inspections in recent years, but the inspections are and have been required in the County’s remedial plan with FEMA since 2012.

The updated ordinance prohibits the use of breakaway walls in VE flood zones but allows coverings made out of lattice or screen enclosures. The updated ordinance continues to limit the size of downstair enclosures to up to 299 square feet. The County Commission supported staff looking into changing the local code to allow opaque breakaway walls for downstairs enclosures.

Senior Administrator of the Monroe County Floodplain Program Karl Bursa said no changes were made to requiring inspections of enclosed areas below elevated residential structures that have been in effect in Monroe County since 2012. He said the owner would not be cited by code compliance or be required to remove the enclosure when selling a house (unless a life-safety issue is involved). The inspection requirement is in place for the buyer’s benefit, so they are made aware of whether the downstairs enclosure was permitted and whether it complies with current regulations.

Regardless of the inspections, legally permitted enclosures must be brought into compliance with the current code if substantial improvements to the entire home are made or if certain improvements to the enclosure itself are made for those built before 2004. Downstairs enclosures that were never legally permitted must be brought into compliance at the time of any permit application on the house.

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