BARRE — With a new digital flood insurance rate map for Washington County finally scheduled to go into effect in March, folks with flood insurance questions will have several opportunities to get them answered starting next month.
A series of public meetings will be held throughout the county starting Jan. 8 in Waterbury and wrapping up in Montpelier on Feb. 5. There will be five meetings in all, and each will focus on the newly revised flood hazard maps and the insurance options available for structures that may be affected by the updated designations.
Countywide, roughly 200 structures have been identified for the first time as being at a high risk of damage by flooding, and their owners may benefit by getting flood insurance before the new map goes into effect March 19.
Residential property owners who buy flood insurance before the map change can benefit from a more gradual increase in their insurance costs. They are eligible for low-cost “preferred-risk policies” that can be renewed twice before insurance increases to the full cost.
An average flood insurance policy for property in a high-risk area currently costs around $1,400 a year for $170,000 in coverage.
In many cases obtaining insurance for properties in those areas isn’t optional. Federal law requires lenders to be sure that mortgages on structures in the flood hazard area are insured for their known flood risk.
While the flood hazard area is expanding in some areas, it is contracting in others. Countywide, roughly 500 properties are expected to drop out of the high-risk area, though that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to drop flood insurance. Owners of property outside the flood hazard area will benefit from lower available flood insurance premiums.
The upcoming public information meetings are open to all and will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The first meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury on Jan. 8.
The venue will shift to Barre’s Alumni Hall on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m., Brown Public Library in Northfield on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m., the Old Schoolhouse Common in Marshfield on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m., and Memorial Room at City Hall in Montpelier on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.
The new maps for Washington County have been in final form for some time, but their implementation was delayed while officials in Barre exhausted their ability to appeal the flood hazard boundaries in their community.
Barre officials were concerned with a significant — and unwarranted, they believed — expansion of the flood hazard area on and around a 1,900-foot section of North Main Street. Dozens of properties will be affected by the new designation, which creates insurance obligations and imposes rigid restrictions on any development.
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