GULFPORT — The city is spending $33,000 in an attempt to save its waterfront residents millions.
That's the cost of an engineering study of the velocity-zoned areas in the Pasadena Yacht Club and Marina districts in an attempt to get them rezoned.
The results of the study, expected to be in the city's hands next July, will be presented to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which maps the zones.
The city will then ask FEMA to revise flood maps to reduce the velocity zones. In velocity zones, homes are required to have pilings or columns, and the construction must have breakaway walls or no walls at all on the ground floor.
Construction in the A zone where the base flood elevation has been determined requires breakaway walls with vents that allow water to flow through the ground floor.
Residents in high-velocity zones pay the most for flood insurance, so they would realize a savings.
There are 1,330 dwelling units — 400 single-family homes and 930 condo units — affected by the study, said Michael Taylor, principal planner in the Gulfport Community Development Department.
One of those homeowners is Clark Scherer, a general contractor and professional engineer. He lives on the water in Pasadena Point Estates in a house he built 11 years ago. He said it is on a higher elevation than many houses on the beach, yet he pays a premium for flood insurance.
"I think it's a good idea for them to address the zoning inequities," he said. "There are houses side by side with different zoning, and yet they have the same exposure to hurricanes. Some people pay $10,000 a year for $250,000 of flood insurance (the maximum you can get), while others pay $1,000," he said.
Interim City Manager Jim O'Reilly said, "It's something good the city can do for its residents. We repeatedly heard this was a major issue."
City Council member Michele King agreed. "When I was campaigning and I was talking to people, a big concern was flood insurance." She said she promised that she would make flood insurance a priority.
The city said the money for the study is coming from funding set aside in the planning and developing department in its professional and contractual budget.