Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Flood map's effect hits home in Hernando, where many now need insurance

BROOKSVILLE — Earlier this year, John Sampson had hoped to cash in on the low interest rates and refinance his Royal Highlands retirement home.

But instead of a simple process, he found himself tangled in red tape. His home had landed in a flood zone when the Federal Emergency Management Agency finalized new county flood maps in February, and that means he now needed flood insurance to satisfy his mortgage company.

Sampson said his home is built higher than the flood elevation and he is fighting the designation. He has scrambled to get a survey and spent hours on research to figure out the right course of action.

He also is going through the lengthy process of seeking a Letter of Map Adjustment from FEMA.

He is especially aggravated that the county never gave him individual notice that the change was coming.

"No one had any idea this was going on,'' said Sampson, who has sought help from U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent to change the requirements of notification for the future. "I feel like we weren't given a chance to dispute it.''

Sampson's is not an isolated case. More than 24,000 Hernando households that had not been in the flood plain are now designated in an area prone to flooding, according to the county's estimate.

The county publicized the redrawn maps for months, held public meetings on them in mid 2010 and advertised a time frame, which ended in early 2011, when disputes could be filed. Only seven people disputed their designation.

Sampson said both his bank and his insurance agent told him they have been getting regular questions from residents just learning they may need flood insurance. The county has also been inundated with questions.

"We're getting a lot of calls,'' said John Burnett, the county's water resource specialist. "Unfortunately, the thing is, the mortgage companies are giving people a very short time line in which to respond.''

In some cases, he said, just 30 days. That is not a lot of time for people to buy flood insurance or learn how to be grandfathered in at a cheaper insurance rate.

In some cases that could require homeowners to hire surveyors or other professionals to determine the elevation of their homes. Each mortgage or insurance company can require a different level of proof.

For example, if a mortgage company blanketed all its Hernando County customers with letters about the flood zones and some of the properties were nowhere near the flood plains, the county can issue a letter of determination by the county's flood plain administrator, Burnett said.

But for some institutions, that won't be proof enough, he said.

One good thing is that most of the people who are now in a flood zone were not in one previously.

That means, in many cases, that the home is grandfathered and is eligible for less-expensive flood insurance for a time.

That still requires quick action by homeowners to satisfy FEMA's requirements, including proving that, at the time of development, their property met the requirements in force, Burnett said.

The difference in premiums can be significant.

Sampson is paying $343 for his annual premium because he had time for the home to get grandfathered. In two years, that will increase about $1,000 if he cannot prove his home is above the flood plain.

The word about the flood maps has been spreading since the FEMA acceptance, Burnett said. He said some people who are considering purchasing homes in the area have called the county to ask a property's flood plain status.

It took years to develop the new maps and the process included the county, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and FEMA.

The new maps replace those drawn in 1984 that were based on a review of just three areas of the county: the coastal zone, prone to coastal surge; the Withlacoochee River area, known for river flooding; and a stretch from north of Brooksville along U.S. 41 to Masaryktown, which experienced major flooding in the 1950s.

The product of extensive watershed studies, the 148 new maps include an aerial photograph background showing more detail than the old maps.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

>>flood zones

On the Web

To see the maps, go to:


For information on the grandfathering process which may result in reduced flood insurance rates, go to:




For information

• Rebecca Garrett,, zoning coordinator, (352) 754-4165

• Chris Linsbeck,, zoning supervisor, (352) 754-4050

• John Burnett, Environmental Services, Water Resource Coordinator, (352) 540-6569

Flood map's effect hits home in Hernando, where many now need insurance 03/20/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 6:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Warehouse burns on Tampa's east side


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County emergency crews are at the scene of a two-alarm fire at a warehouse near 56th Street and East Hillsborough Avenue.

    Hillsborough County firefighters battle a blaze Thursday night at a warehouse on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  2. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  3. Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health


    Hurricane Irma was as rough on some wildlife as it was on the humans. Audubon of Florida reported Thursday that the storm destroyed all 44 nests around Lake Okeechobee built by the endangered Everglades snail kite, a bird considered crucial to the River of Grass ecosystem.

    Hurricane Irma destroyed 44 snail kite nests, capping off a poor mating season for the endangered species, which is seen as an important barometer of the health of the Florida Everglades. Their off-center beaks allow them to probe inside the spiral shells of the native apple snails. But the snails' population has dropped as the Everglades has changed. [MAC STONE | Audubon of Florida]
  4. New center opens in Tampa to help those with missing, damaged limbs


    TAMPA — Justin Lansford, his service dog Gabe by his side, smiled broadly Thursday as he imagined the future of a sprawling, resource center for people who need artificial limbs and those interested in helping them.

    Justin Lansford, 27, lost his left leg above the knee in Afghanistan. He was one of dozens of people attending the opening of the Veterans International Institute of Orthotics & Prosthetics in Tampa on Thursday. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]
  5. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort


    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times