Low-flying planes will be zooming over Wellington in the next few months as part of the village’s efforts to stave off what officials say could be massive homeowner’s insurance increases for thousands of residents.
“If this map stays the way it is, the impact on Wellington will be tremendous,” Village Engineer Bill Riebe said.
The village council on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $87,500 for updated contour mapping of all of Wellington.
Deputy Village Manager John Bonde said this move will involve setting GPS markers on the ground and then having planes fly over and survey all of the land to create a three-dimensional topographic map complete with the elevation of each property.
“This is a one fell swoop that captures all that info and is accurate,” Riebe said of the aerial mapping.
While the contour maps will have many uses for the village, Bonde said the elevation mapping could prove particularly important for homeowners.
This past summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released updated flood zone maps for western Palm Beach County. The problem, Bonde said, is that those FEMA flood maps were based on outdated topographical maps created in the late 1990s before most of the current village properties were even developed.
The maps shows numerous neighborhoods like Olympia and Black Diamond as being in higher-risk flood zones.
Bonde said that because those neighborhoods have been developed since the maps were created, the elevation of that land is actually much higher than shown on FEMA maps and they might not be in the flood zone at all.
“None of that was reflected in the model FEMA used,” Bonde said. “We went through (Tropical Storm) Isaac and we know those areas didn’t flood.”
Banks typically require mortgage holders to buy flood insurance if their homes are in a flood zone. Some western county officials have estimated that houses being listed in the flood zone unnecessarily could cost those homeowners as much as $600 per year in extra insurance they have to buy.
Bonde couldn’t say how many homes might be incorrectly listed as being in the flood zone in Wellington, but estimated it was in the hundreds.
Bonde said the village hopes to have the aerial mapping wrapped up by late February. They will then take the new elevation maps for the whole village and use it to craft a response to FEMA in March asking the federal agency to update itsflood maps with their new data and take those neighborhoods out of flood zone listing.
“It is in a language that FEMA can accept — engineering language,” Bonde said. “Everybody wants the same goal, to have accurate maps.”