County mails 3,000 flood map notices

Douglas County officials have mailed 3,000 notices to property owners who may find themselves required to purchase flood insurance for the first time due to a disputed remapping of the floodplain by federal officials.

The letters, from Community Development Director Mimi Moss, were sent Oct. 1 to advise property owners of the upcoming changes in January that may add up to $900 to their annual homeowner's insurance.

"If you have a mortgage from a federally regulated lender and the building(s) on your parcel are within the special flood hazard area, then by federal law, your lender must require you to carry flood insurance when these flood maps become effective," Moss said in the letter.

A meeting is set for Oct. 28 with real estate, insurance and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to go over the proposed changes.

Real estate and insurance company representatives are invited to meet with FEMA and the county from 4:30-6 p.m. A public meeting is set for 6-8 p.m. for property owners, the county and FEMA.

While the FEMA maps are the subject of litigation with Douglas County, officials urged property owners to purchase flood insurance by the end of November to qualify for lower rates that will increase when the maps take effect Jan. 20.

County Engineer Mahmood Azad made a presentation Monday for Douglas County seniors at the request of Paul Lockwood, president of the Young At Heart Senior Citizens Club.

"If you did not get a letter, it's a pretty good presumption that the floodplain on your property is not changing," Azad said.

He said FEMA is supposed to remap the area every five years, but it had been 15 since the last survey.

"FEMA hasn't done a good job," Azad said. "The maps are incorrect. They did not do proper coordination (with the county) as required by law. We have been fighting tooth and nail."

Winhaven homeowner Walter Spaelti called the new maps "a joke."

"Who made this determination? I've lived in Winhaven for years - even during the 1997 flood - and I've never seen any flooding in the neighborhood," Spaelti said.

Spaelti, who doesn't have a mortgage on his property, said he has no intention of buying flood insurance.

Robert Kopacz, who lives on Northampton Circle next to Lampe Park in Gardnerville, said he and his wife Helen lived there for three years before they were notified their house was in the flood plain.

The designation added $700 to his annual insurance premium.

"That's what gets me so damn mad," he said. "When you're retired, you expect to get a little bit of a break."

Azad distributed FEMA contact information and invited property owners to bring their parcel numbers to the Community Development desk at the Minden Inn to verify their status.

They'll also be able to check parcels at the Oct. 28 meeting.

He said FEMA can't force property owners to purchase flood insurance, but their mortgage company will.

Azad said homeowners may qualify for lower rates if they purchase flood insurance at least eight weeks before the new maps take effect Jan. 20.

He said insurance information would be available at the Oct. 28 meeting.


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