South Portland forum to focus on new flood map

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SOUTH PORTLAND — There will be an informational session on Wednesday, Sept. 29, for residents of South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough affected by newly proposed federal flood maps.

South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey said the forum, which will run from 6-9 p.m. in the South Portland High School Auditorium, will be a chance for residents to ask questions about the flood map changes, which affect many seaside property owners.

Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released new flood plain maps. In many communities, including South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, oceanfront properties are included in the flood plain for the first time.

The new designation could require those homeowners to purchase additional insurance.

“We’re hoping someone from FEMA will be there,” Gailey said. “It’s not (the city) that’s changing the maps, it’s them.”

Gailey said more than 200 property owners could be affected in South Portland. The area impacted most is the Loveitt’s Field neighborhood, he said.

“These homes are very high up on a high bluff,” Gailey said. “We just think FEMA’s design is a little excessive.”

FEMA has opened an appeal process for homeowners and municipalities to challenge their new designations. The agency has already granted an appeal for the city of Portland, whose waterfront would have been undevelopable under FEMA’s proposed map.

Gailey said South Portland also filed its appeal in the spring, but has not received a ruling from the agency, which has been busy working with Portland.

“That’s been the most frustrating part,” he said.

Cape Elizabeth Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Smith said that about 55 residents have already contacted the town to inquire about the new maps. Of those, only 15 have fallen in the new flood plain.

“There’s really not one (area) affected more than the other,” Smith said.

Unlike South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough has not hired an independent consultant to contest the new maps and has not filed an appeal on behalf of its residents.

Scarborough Assistant Planner Jay Chace said a consultant was not hired because the new maps do not impact Scarborough as much as they do other communities.

Chace said it will be up to individual homeowners to prove their cases.

A 90-day appeal period for affected property owners to appeal began on Sept. 2.

Municipal officials encouraged all waterfront property owners to attend the Sept. 29 meeting, where large maps displaying individual properties and the proposed flood plain will be on display.

While FEMA has adjusted its maps for Portland, Gailey and Smith said some property owners will ultimately be required to buy more expensive insurance because of the change.

But even they have something to gain by attending the forum.

“The benefit of knowing ahead of time is, if you take out insurance before (next) June, you will be grandfathered and pay a lower rate for the first year,” Smith said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or