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New Flood Hazard Maps Released for Boston

January 2016
Practice: Climate Change Resilience
Offices: Boston
People: Peter D. Corbett, Matthew J. Kiefer, Alan M. Reisch

After several years of study and an appeal by the City of Boston, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop, which become effective March 16. The new FIRMs expand “special flood hazard areas” (SFHAs) and adjust “base flood elevations” (BFEs). The new FIRMs can be viewed here by choosing “Massachusetts,” “Suffolk County” and then “Pending Product” and “FIRM Panels.”

The location of a property within an expanded SFHA can have meaningful financial and practical consequences for the property owner. Lenders generally require flood insurance for improved property and insurance provisions in turn may require raising occupied spaces above a certain elevation. Newly constructed buildings within the SFHA may also need to comply with zoning and building code requirements related to flood resistance and resilience, such as waterproofing and raising or protecting mechanical equipment. Construction within the newly expanded SFHA may require an Order of Conditions under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and may be required to comply with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Stormwater Policy. 

For properties already within an SFHA before the new FIRMs were released, an adjustment to the BFE may also be consequential. Existing building code restrictions may limit certain uses below the BFE and/or may require floodproofing construction methods. In addition, proposed revisions to the Massachusetts building code currently under consideration would increase floodproofing requirements in an SFHA and impose additional restrictions on uses below the BFE.

Goulston & Storrs continues to follow developments related to these regulatory initiatives and climate change more generally. For questions about the information contained in this advisory, please contact your usual Goulston & Storrs attorney or the attorneys listed below.

Peter D. Corbett
(617) 574-4124
pcorbett@goulstonstorrs.com

Matthew J. Kiefer
(617) 574-6597
mkiefer@goulstonstorrs.com

Alan M. Reisch
(617) 574-3547
areisch@goulstonstorrs.com

This is advisory should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

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