Letters to the Editor — February 13, 2015

Carmean: FI council must be practical


I am publically but respectfully requesting that the Fenwick Island Town Council limit the amendments to Chapter 88 to the approval of the FEMA flood plain map. I am also adding my voice to those of many other residents who object to the rushed process that the Council has undertaken to throw freeboarding and changed height restrictions into this mix.

FEMA is only suggesting, not requiring, the inclusion of 18 inches of freeboarding. Plus, current residents are still eligible for the federal flood insurance as per existing FEMA standards.

As a former member of Council and involved resident, I have attended most of the workshops regarding sea-level-rise theories, a new flood plain map, and now the proposed freeboard suggestions.

Contrary to the claims of some Council members, none of these presentations connected the dots from the above topics to a potential increase in building height until the Nov. 25 meeting with Greg Williams. Is it not surprising, therefore, that the residents are upset?

At the last two meetings at Town Hall, Mrs. Serio stated she was for mandated freeboarding, as well as increased building height, because she felt it was her duty to keep the residents “safe.” I do not understand the logic of this statement since more than 85 percent of the town has already been developed and we are as safe as anyone can be who lives along the coast.

Those of us with common sense have already incorporated “freeboarding” into the design of our 30-foot-high homes so that wiring, ductwork, plumbing, etc., will not be damaged by floods.

My questions remain unanswered: Who stands to benefit from this sudden push for increased building height? Why the big rush to make changes during the winter months when few residents are available for input?

I am also perplexed by the Council’s reaction to the January FISH letter, whereby some members dismissed the validity of the letter because of a few errors, half of which were caused by the poor audio setup in the Town Hall that makes it difficult to hear whoever is speaking.

While some Council members have natural public speaking voices, several do not. Even at the January Council meeting, those same members ignored nearby microphones. How can the public be informed if Council does not make the effort to be heard?

As such, my final request is that the Council back up a little on the subject of freeboarding and building height in order to provide an opportunity for all residents to learn about the issues. If this means waiting until the part-timers return this spring and summer, so be it! It is the duty of elected representatives to serve the residents, not herd them.

After the Feb. 3 workshop, it appears that Council is moving toward a thoughtful plan and timeline. I am hopeful the more extremist Council members will rethink their positions about freeboarding and height changes so that “voluntary” is substituted for “mandatory” and practical five- to 10-year ordinances are implemented, as opposed to doomsday “visionary” requirements.

I remain opposed to any height changes, because most of the existing houses have incorporated “freeboarding” long before it had a FEMA definition.

Vicki L. Carmean
Fenwick Island