North OC Blocks To See Flood Insurance Spike

OCEAN CITY — Concerns were raised this week about the new federal flood maps and associated higher flood insurance premiums for a two- to three-block section of oceanfront property in north Ocean City adjacent to the Delaware line, but it appears there might be no easy solution.

Local resident Mac Balkcom, owner of a unit in the Ocean Place condominium on the oceanfront between 146th and 145th streets outlined the problem for the Mayor and Council on Monday. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) redrew the flood maps for all of Ocean City and coastal areas throughout Worcester County, a roughly two-block swath of beach just south of the Delaware line and in front of Ocean Place was designated with a AO zone, signaling it had been determined the area was more susceptible to coastal flooding than other oceanfront areas immediately to the south.

As a result, the condo owners in Ocean Place and presumably other properties in the new AO zone are now facing significantly higher flood insurance premiums than they have in the past. Balkcom said he has been in contact with FEMA officials about the abrupt change in the flood map designation since the condominium building has been in place for over 30 years with no problems even in the worst of storms.

Part of the problem is that the north end of Ocean City’s dune system abuts Delaware’s much smaller, less tall dune network. As a result, FEMA has determined the stretch of oceanfront property roughly from 146th Street to 145th Street including a portion of the beachfront at 143rd Street is now more susceptible to a coastal flooding event. However, Balkcom told the council he has weathered several major storms at Ocean Place over the years with few if any problems.

“Why are we like Delaware and not like the rest of Ocean City?” he said. “I’ve been there for the three major storms they used for modeling and we didn’t even have standing water on the parking lot.”

Frustrated in his dealings with FEMA over the new designation and the subsequent flood insurance hikes, Balkcom reached out to the Mayor and Council to intercede with the federal agency on his behalf and on behalf of the other property owners.

Balkcom suggested an apparent solution to the problem could be as simple as raising the height of the dune in front of Ocean Place. He said the dune is not quite as high as the dunes in front of oceanfront properties to the south because it had eroded over time with a buffer of the same height on the Delaware side just to the north.

“We’re asking for assurance from the city that the dune be brought up to FEMA specifications,” he said. “It’s been a nightmare to work with these people. The map data doesn’t make sense. It should be relatively easy to fix if they know what they want.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said while town officials were sympathetic to the situation, the proximity of the north end of Ocean City to Delaware might complicate the issue.

“We can certainly do something to that dune, but I think it’s more complicated than that,” he said “It’s related to how it ties into Delaware there and what Delaware’s plan is for replenishment and whether they have the same type of agreement as we do. We’ll do whatever we can. I just don’t know if there is a magic answer for you. I don’t think there is any easy answer on this one.”

Councilmember Joe Mitrecic said without a stable buffer on the north side of the dune, the dune in front of Ocean Place was somewhat out in the open.

“Any time you pile sand, it’s harder to keep it in place without something on either end,” he said. “Sand tends to spread out without something on either end, which is why Ocean City’s dune system works so well. Delaware’s dune is lower and it leaves you more vulnerable.”