Islip Officials Unanimously Amend Town Code Height Restrictions; New Law Helps Sandy Victims Rebuild & Better Prepare for Future Natural Disasters

Islip, NY – In an effort to provide greater ease for property owners as they rebuild after Superstorm Sandy, the Islip Town today unanimously approved an amendment to the Town Code relaxing height restrictions on dwellings located in FEMA-designated Special Flood Hazard Areas.

The legislation was lauded by residents and organizations alike and supported as a welcomed sign of relief to those struggling with the complexities of rebuilding while seeking to protect their homes from future storms.

“Many are straining to understand the sometimes contradictory Federal rebuilding regulations and procedures,” Supervisor Tom Croci said. “At the very least, on the local level, we can simplify our Town regulations and provide clarity to our residents while helping them to harden their investments against future natural disasters.”

Prior to the amendments, the Town Code may have hindered a homeowner’s ability to raise their home to protect their property from increased flooding.  For homes zoned Residence A, AA, and AAA, the height restriction was 37 feet; in Residence B and BAA districts the restriction was 30 feet.  In all five of these zones, the height measurement was taken from the ground level, which could often be below FEMA’s flood lines.

“These changes will allow homeowners to meet the elevation standards recommended by the National Flood Insurance Program’s standard.  This will mainly be achieved by measuring the height of the home from FEMA’s designated flood lines, as opposed to ground level,” Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt stated.  “So homeowners will now be able to raise their homes to an adequate height to keep their property safe, to meet the demands of FEMA and their insurers, and still comply with the Town Code.”

Councilman Anthony Senft echoed his support, "Three months ago, the Town board passed measures to allow homeowners with non conforming uses on substandard lots the ability to rebuild without seeking Zoning Board variances. Today’s measure will also prevent homeowners from having to go through a lengthy appeals process for this type of construction, which is especially important for Fire Island residents, who are restricted in what times of the year they are allowed to perform renovations on their houses.”

The Town Board action Tuesday also received praise from the Fire Island National Seashore branch of the National Park Service.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy we have found that certain portions of the Town Code were too rigid and wouldn’t allow residents to rebuild in a way that protects them from future storms,” said Councilman Steve Flotteron.  “Amending the Town Code as we have done will allow our residents to meet the Federal government’s flood insurance requirements, aiding any necessary recovery procedures.”

For homeowners in Residence Zones A, AA, and AAA the new height restrictions will state that no dwelling may exceed 35 feet in height, measured from FEMA’s flood lines.  For Residence Zones B and BAA no dwelling may exceed 28 feet in height, again, measured from FEMA’s flood lines.

“Hurricane Sandy changed the priorities of homeowners in our shoreline communities,” said Councilman John Cochrane.  “Storm preparation has become a top concern, and our Town Code has to be able to help our residents prepare for future weather events.”

Many homeowners, even those in Special Flood Hazard Areas, have been frustrated by the tedious requirements and paperwork needed to claim disaster assistance as a result of flooding.  Many insurers also force homeowners to construct their houses in a way that alleviates the risk of flooding.  The changes made to the Islip Town Code regarding height restrictions will give homeowners the chance to rebuild or renovate their homes in a way that satisfies flood precautions for Federal and private entities.

“As Chairwoman of the Long Island Builders Institute and as President of Daytree Custom Builders at Cortland Square, I would like to thank Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci and the board for amending the Town Code to allow residents to rebuild their homes in such a way that it protects them from future storms,” said Clara Datre, Chairwoman of the Long Island Builder’s Institute. “This Town action will eliminate the tedious work and frustration that many residents in other towns are experiencing with the new height regulations set forth by the National Flood Insurance Program. It allows the homeowners within the shoreline communities to meet the Federal government's flood insurance new height requirements without having to appear before the Board of Appeals. LIBI applauds the Town of Islip for helping the people who have endured so much already by enabling them to expedite their building process a little.”