Proposed city ordinance could help lower flood insurance premiums

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Charleston City Council is considering a new ordinance that could lower the risks of flooding and drop insurance rates at the same time. The new ordinance follows FEMA guidelines and could save Charleston homeowners money.

New construction projects continue to pop up in Charleston as city engineers work to earn a better FEMA rate in flood sustainability.

"Right now we're at a rating grade of a seven and that saves our citizens here, 15 percent a year on flood insurance premiums. If we are able to get to a six, that saves an additional five percent for a total of 20 percent," said City engineer and Director Department of Public Service Laura Cabiness.

Cabiness said Charleston voluntarily participates in a FEMA rating system and the city is up for its five-year review.

"We participate in the community ratings system and under that system, if a city does certain things to improve the sustainability of the community and reduce flood risks we get extra points and we get those extra points, we get a rating and that rating reflects in insurance savings to our citizens," said Cabiness.

In order to get the improved rating, city council will have to approve an ordinance that would require new construction to be built a foot higher than what's recommended for base flood elevation rates in the area.

She says ordinance would not affect everyone planning to build within city limits.

"So, if you're in an A zone, you're going to have to build one foot above 13 feet, so at 14 feet. If you're in an X zone, it's not going to affect you at all," said Cabiness.

Cabiness says this type of ordinance already exists for new construction in Charleston County and North Charleston.