The BOCC listened to this issue of first impression regarding manufactured and mobile home elevations. They ultimately voted to eliminate the exception. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

In January, the BOCC took the last required step to upgrade to a Community Rating System (CRS) Class 4 designation — or so they thought. 

The Community Rating System (CRS) recognizes communities that manage their floodplain risk which, in turn, earns the entire community a flood insurance discount off their premium. The upgrade from a Class 5 to a Class 4 will save flood insurance policyholders an additional $1 million annually. 

During reviews for the upgrade, an old provision in the Land Development Code was discovered allowing manufactured and mobile homes to rebuild on 36-inch piers rather than elevating completely to minimum base flood elevations, said Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley. 

“This is considered by ISO (Insurance Services Office Inc., which works with FEMA and insurance companies to review CRS applications) and FEMA to be not 100% in compliance with having regulations that eliminate flood risk,” said Hurley. “Therefore, if we do not eliminate this allowance, we will likely not be classified into a Class 4.”

Staff were surprised by this “holdover from decades ago,” when mobile homes were given special exceptions as affordable housing, said Hurley. “They’re still affordable housing, but we all know how they survived Irma. They did not, and allowing them to be built on 36-inch piers is not in the best interest of public safety,” she said.

Commissioner Craig Cates agreed. He said, “At 36 inches above grade and with no height requirement for grade to be set, this could be just 2 feet above sea level. That’s dangerous.” He added, “I don’t know how this passed years ago, but it’s time we change it.”

Commissioner David Rice incredulously said, “As is, we’re taking the most vulnerable in Monroe County and putting them in the most vulnerable place. We can’t do that.”

Hurley requested moving forward with a code amendment to eliminate the exception for these mobile home parks. In order to achieve a CRS Class 4 rating manufactured and mobile homes must be compliant with everyone else. She noted that any code changes would be open for public input and would come back to the BOCC for final approval. 

Mayor Heather Carruthers was quick to point out that the change would only apply for new repairs or replacements and would not require current homes to be retrofitted. 

“This only applies when a mobile home is damaged beyond 50% of its value or if someone wants to voluntarily change,” said Carruthers. Commissioner Michelle Coldiron added, “Yes, they don’t have to do anything today. It’s only if they’re under repair or if they choose to change.”

The commission voted unanimously for the amendment. Coldiron said, “This will impact our mobile home parks in the county. What it will do, though, is make them flood-proof.” 

Coldiron acknowledged that some might be upset by the decision, which could make it harder for an elderly person to climb up steps to their unit. “It gets offset, though, when the first flooding happens, and they’re high and dry and can move back in right away.”

 

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