MANATEE -- Newly constructed homes and older ones undergoing major renovations in flood hazard areas must conform to tougher restrictions under a rewritten ordinance unanimously approved Tuesday by Manatee County commissioners.
The ordinance prohibits plumbing fixtures and air-conditioning units on ground floors below flood elevation for some flood-prone homes.
Parking and limited yard maintenance equipment storage are permitted in enclosed ground-floor areas.
A flood insurance study for Manatee County and flood insurance rate maps were included in the updated ordinance, which will go into effect March 17.
Manatee County floodplain investigator Sandy Tudor said the ordinance changes were "codifying a disclosure form we've been using for years."
"We didn't make huge changes in it, we just tweaked it a little," she said.
Builder John Neal said he thought the changes were "a good thing, but is not necessarily a change."
"It is not a problem -- builders are doing it anyway, and have been for some time," he added.
He credited Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker for clarifying the legal language.
"From a builder's perspective, as long as we know the rules, as long as they apply, (we're fine); it's the unknown rules we have trouble with," Neal said.
Anna Maria Island, a barrier island facing the Gulf
of Mexico, is 100 percent in a flood hazard area, Tudor said.
Other places in Manatee, where much of the land is in flood hazard area, include Cortez in the southwest and Terra Ceia near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, she said.
The rewrite has some pluses for homeowners: It will give those living in flood hazard areas the option of applying for funding to improve homes that repetitively flood, Tudor said.
It is also designed to bolster county standing in the Community Rating System, a voluntary program whereby communities above minimum federal requirements can earn credits and premium discounts for flood insurance policyholders.
The Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012 was designed to eliminate subsidies for some policyholders, so those in high-risk areas would pay rates based on their full risk of flood damage.
The latest round of federal flood insurance policy premium increases occurred Oct. 1. In some instances, policies increased by thousands of dollars for homes in special flood hazard areas.
The latest rate increases, which take effect when policies renew, will mean the greatest increases for homes built below base flood-line elevation before Dec. 31, 1974, when the first flood maps were made.
The county Building and Development Services Department updated the ordinance after state officials found deficiencies in 2011.
In 2012, officials were ready to present a rewritten version when the Florida State Floodplain Office requested a delay until its model ordinance came out last year. The new Manatee ordinance was based on that.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.