North Port moves to make it easier for homeowners to rebuild in flood zones

NORTH PORT – North Port's building department will not consider work done in recent years in calculations used to decide whether to issue rebuilding permits in flood zones where homes were damaged by Hurricane Ian.

The decision is connected to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 50% rule. The rule is part of the National Flood Insurance Program and applies to homes damaged in the AE flood zone, or areas on FEMA flood maps where there is a 1% annual chance of flooding.

Typically, when the cost of home improvements or damage repairs for a five-year period exceeds 50% of a home's market value, the structure must be rebuilt to conform to current flood regulations.

That may involve raising the home or using flood-resistant materials.

Related: FEMA rule could mean many can't afford to rebuild after Hurricane Ian

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North Port City Manager Jerome Fletcher used his emergency powers to waive the cumulative impact of the FEMA 50% rule on single-family homes, easing the burden of rebuilding for some 600 homeowners devastated by Hurricane Ian.

This means that the Building Division of the Department of Neighborhood Development Services Department will only be looking at the current costs to return the home to a pre-Hurricane lan condition when determining whether repairs to a home reach the 50% threshold.

This change is effective immediately, though it will be formally ratified by the City Commission at its Dec.13 meeting.

For the home value calculation North Port’s building official is using the structure value as listed by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office and then tacking on another 20% to simulate market value.

The 50% rule is meant to reduce the impact on federal taxpayers by limiting constant rebuilding on flood prone properties.

About 600 homeowners who live north of the Cocoplum Waterway and east of Sumter Boulevard received notice from North Port that they may need to meet current Florida building codes to receive permits to rebuild.

North Port residents used kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft to retrieve their loved ones from homes flooded by Hurricane Ian.
North Port residents used kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft to retrieve their loved ones from homes flooded by Hurricane Ian.

To meet federal guidelines for homeowners to qualify for policies under the National Flood Insurance Program, county and municipal governments cannot  issue building permits to homes in special flood zones when repair costs exceed 50% of a home's market value until the property owners raise their homes so that flood waters are less likely to cause damage in the future.

Waiving the five-year cumulative substantial improvement requirement is one action local governments can take to ease the burden on those seeking to rebuild.

Access to the current FEMA flood map for the city of North Port can be found at:

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Hurricane Ian recovery: North Port eases rules to rebuild from floods