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Palm Beach County and its 39 municipalities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In return for NFIP making flood insurance available to property owners, the county and municipalities are required to adopt ordinances to manage development within 100-year floodplains to prevent increased flooding and minimize future flood damage. Flood Insurance Rate Maps, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are used as the basis for delineating the 100-year floodplain and identifying regulated land.
Flood Damage Prevention Ordinances
Palm Beach County's Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, covers the unincorporated areas of the county. Municipal residents should contact their respective building department officials to determine what requirements are in effect for their jurisdictions.
The NFIP requires participating counties and municipalities to issue permits for all development in the 100-year floodplain. Development is broadly defined by NFIP to include any man-made change to land, including grading, filling, dredging, extraction, storage, subdivision of land, as well as the construction or improvement of structures. Proposed development must not increase flooding or create a dangerous situation during flooding, especially on neighboring properties. If a structure is involved, it must be constructed to minimize damage during flooding. Permitting officials work with applicants to discourage development in the floodplain wherever possible, but when unavoidable, the effects of development must be minimized.
The permitting review process may seem cumbersome at times, but it is a requirement for continued community participation in the NFIP. Violations can not only jeopardize a community's standing in the NFIP...they can impact the ability of residents to obtain flood insurance. If you see development occurring without permits, protect your rights by reporting violators to your local permit office.
Elevation of New and Substantially Improved Structures
Damage to "new" and "substantially improved" floodplain structures is minimized by elevating the lowest floor of occupied areas a specified amount above the 100-year flood elevation. Substantially improved structures are those where the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvements equals or exceeds 50% of the building's market value. Substantially improved structures are subject to the same elevation standards as new structures. Check with your local permit office for specific requirements in your jurisdiction.
To verify that a building has been properly elevated, building officials require the completion of an Elevation Certificate by a professional engineer or surveyor. After the lowest floor is in place, its elevation above sea level is determined by a survey. The Elevation Certificate is part of the permit record and must be submitted before the building may be occupied.
Further information on the requirements for floodplain development, the permitting process and Elevation Certificates can be obtained from your local permit office.