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Flood insurance rate increases to go into effect on nonprimary residences in Berkeley County

January 19, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Rate increases of 25 percent per year for government-subsidized flood insurance premiums for certain nonprimary residences have been set in motion.

The rate increases, which started Jan. 1, will continue each year until they reflect full-risk rates, Berkeley County officials recently were told by Richard L. Carte of the state Floodplain Management Program.

The increases are affecting owners of homes in Berkeley County that were built before 1988, county Planning Director Mike Thompson said.

A nonprimary residence is one that is not lived in for at least 80 percent of the year, according to a notice that Carte sent to county officials across the state.

“We’re giving you this information because there is bound to be confusion and anger among policyholders of flood-plain insurance out there and you will probably receive calls about increases as they occur,” Carte said.

While the rate increases going into effect currently only affect nonprimary residences, Carte noted that similar 25 percent rate increases for owners of primary residences will start in 2014.

The rate increases came with Congress’ passage of the Biggert-Waters Reform Act, also known as BW-12, last summer, Carte said.

“The first wave of these increases are now upon us,” Carte said.

Carte said the rate increases approved through the legislation were passed by federal lawmakers to financially straighten the government’s flood insurance program.

Owners of homes built in a high-risk flood zone before the county received its Flood Insurance Rate Map have benefited from discounted insurance premiums that allowed them to pay about one-third of the true risk cost on their policies, Carte told county officials.

For Berkeley County, the delineation came in 1988, and homes built since then had to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines, Thompson said.

And the rates charged for these newer homes are pretty close to the true risk or actuarial rate, Carte said.

The rate increases that are going into effect come as Berkeley County moves forward with a FEMA-backed hazard mitigation program to buy out owners of structures in flood-plain areas.

County officials have been focusing on removing structures built along the Potomac River in Sportsman’s Paradise, which is off Broad Lane in the Falling Waters, W.Va., area. Sportsman’s Paradise first was developed as a place for weekend visits and summer vacations, but slowly became a year-round community.

Donna Seiler, the county’s project manager, said earlier this month that 17 structures are targeted for removal in phase three of the buyout program under way in the flood-prone portion of the defunct subdivision.

The county might establish a public recreational area after it acquires 83 percent of the property through the FEMA program, Seiler said. The county currently has no public access to the river, but Seiler said they are approaching the threshold needed to move forward with developing public access to the Potomac.

“People want this,” Seiler told the Berkeley County Council earlier this month. “They’re excited.”

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