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Pawleys Island: New homes will rise to cut flood insurance costs

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

It almost sounds like a TV ad: Raising the height of new homes on Pawleys Island 3 feet or less could save up to 30 percent on federal flood insurance.

The town Planning Commission agreed last week to recommend raising the level of the first floor of new homes by 3 feet to help the town earn points in a federal program that reduces flood insurance premiums for communities that adopt tougher standards to reduce risk.

The town is now at level six in the Community Rating System and property owners get a 20 percent discount that is collectively worth about $225,000 on the island. Raising the first floor height 3 feet above what the federal flood regulations require will garner 500 points under the CRS program and move the town toward a level four rating and a 30 percent premium discount.

“We stand to gain quite a lot,” Ryan Fabbri, the town’s assistant administrator said.

The town already requires new homes to be 1 foot above the federal requirement.

The move comes as the federal flood insurance program is moving to end subsidized rates for high-risk structures. Jimmy McCants, the commission chairman, said one owner on the south end of the island saw his annual premium rise to $52,000. (He later got it reduced to $30,000.)

That was an older house that is a foot below the minimum elevation. “That’s why he’s getting hammered,” Fabbri said.

But Mayor Bill Otis said the town wants to do all it can to improve its CRS level because premiums will continue to rise. He wants the town to adopt other measures over the next 12 to 18 months before inviting the Federal Emergency Management Agency back to the town for a rating review.

Though approved, the commission members said they will gather more data about the impact of the change.

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