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FEMA Issues New Flood Designations Affecting Westchase and Surrounding Neighborhoods

While the Countryway and Twin Branch Acres communities may face significant changes that will require some homeowners to carry flood insurance, Westchase neighborhoods appear likely to see some changes to their storm surge zones.

A new look at topographical maps and flooding potential has prompted FEMA to redraw flood maps for our area. The new designations have the greatest impact south of Linebaugh Avenue west of West Park Village and along Countryway Boulevard.

The new maps will have a twofold impact. They may, if approved, change the storm-surge designation zones for the back half of The Greens and nearly all the Westchase’s villages off Countryway Boulevard. Most of these areas are currently designated Evacuation Zone B with the southwest corner of Westchase sitting in Zone A. During a strong hurricane with sizable storm surge, the county will evacuate areas by these designated storm surge zones.

All of Westchase currently lies in Zone A through Zone C. Designated areas subject to storm surge evacuations during major storms run through Zone E, making all of Westchase and some neighborhoods to its north subject to storm surge flooding during catastrophic hurricanes.

The new designations, if adopted, would take effect in 2020.

FEMA’s new flood maps, however, will also impact the individual flood risk designations of some homes and areas. Called Flood Insurance Rate Maps, these maps used by banks to determine whether homeowners must carry flood insurance as part of their mortgage agreements. They designate the flood risk of each area, giving the labels V, VE, A or AE to areas at high risk of flooding and X to areas with lower risk.

A quick look at some of the maps provided the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) seemed to indicate that while areas subject to flooding have expanded in the community, the areas with changing designations seem to cluster in lower-lying parks and conservation areas. Most homes in the Westchase Community Association (WCA) still appear to lie within boundaries that are not at high-risk of flooding under the new FIRM maps. In many cases, however, the flood line boundaries lie far closer or even adjacent to some homes. Given the maps’ resolutions, some homes may therefore see designation changes. Homeowners, however, will receive a letter from the county indicating if their home is subject to a change in its flood designation.

Areas of Twin Branch Acres and the community of Countryway south of the CSX railroad tracks, however, will see a significant number of homes now designated as being at higher risk of flooding. These homes will likely be compelled by their banks to start carrying flood insurance.

For more information, residents can attend public meetings to view preliminary maps. These are scheduled for:
• Saturday, April 27, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Town N Country Regional Library (7606 Paula Drive)
• Wednesday, May 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at South County Service Center, 406 30th St. SE in Ruskin
• Saturday, May 4, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way in Ruskin

Affected homeowners will have a 90 day period to comment and appeal the changes later this year. You can view potential changes to your property’s designation at hcflgov.net/FloodMaps.

Please note that these changes represent flood designations. Being listed as at low risk for flooding is not a guarantee that your home will not flood. If your home does flood due to storm surge and you are not carrying flood insurance, your ability to recoup losses for repairs will be quite limited. All homeowners in Westchase, due to their homes’ presence in storm surge areas, should carefully consider carrying flood insurance.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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