August 8, 2016

Grains of Salt (v11): New Flood Maps

Quite a while back, it seems, FEMA came into Syracuse with a flood map that seemed to scare the bejeezus out of half the people in the city, who suddenly found themselves in the unenviable position of facing having to purchase flood insurance for their homes.

Among the most heavily impacted areas were poor neighborhoods along Onondaga Creek southwest of downtown; Armory Square, the hip bar, restaurant, retail and residential neighborhood downtown, and the Meadowbrook neighborhood on the East Side.

When the maps came out back in 2012, we were happy to learn that our house was spared. Our property is separated from Onondaga Creek by a soccer field owned by Faith Heritage School, three doors down from us. The creek is in a pretty deep ditch, if you will, when it runs behind the properties on our block, which is anchored by Ballantyne Ave to the north and Seneca Turnpike to the south.

The City and elected officials, including Senator Chuck Schumer, have been going back and forth with FEMA for the past several years (this article is from 2010, for example), trying to have adjustments made in the map, trying to limit the number of homeowners and businesses impacted by the sudden need for flood insurance, which for many would be prohibitive.

The 2012 maps added about 1,100 properties to the flood zone; with the updated information and the fighting back and forth between our local folks and FEMA, the numbers have shifted a bit. The latest data shows some 876 properties added and 237 removed, resulting in 1,602 properties in the final flood zone.

I checked the map again today, and was delighted to learn that we're still not in the zone. But what's mind-boggling is that Faith Heritage School (the large structure at the bottom of the Google Earth image here), the owners of that soccer field behind us?  They're in the zone.

At the other end of the block, near Ballantyne? The Syracuse Alliance Church,  the building with the red roof at the top of the image -- yeah, they're in the zone too.

And all of my neighbors, between the school and the church? Not a single one is in the zone. Not one.

I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth -- I'm thankful that we don't have to come up with the extra money for flood insurance, and I'm sure my neighbors feel the same way.

What's hard to imagine, though, is what happens next for folks that are in better neighborhoods and find themselves in the flood zone.  How is their property value impacted? How much of a hit will there be if they go to sell their property which wasn't in a flood zone when it was built or when the current owners purchased the house, but now is? Would they be able to fight for - and win - a reduction in their property tax assessment?

For folks who weren't topographically fortunate, like we were, seems there's more to come on all of this.