Three Lacey homeowners gathered in a circle as the zoning officer gave them advice and directions after the Board of Adjustment approved their applications to renovate, raise and rebuild their homes following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.
David Petty, Angela Devoe and Brian Hunter were the first of four applicants to approach the board with plans to rebuild.
Rebuilding Can be a ‘Relief’
Petty received approval from the board to rebuild his single-family dwelling, which he had intended to do prior to Hurricane Sandy.
The secondary Koa Drive home, which will become his permanent residence once the new dwelling is completed, had taken on more than six feet of water due to the superstorm. Furniture was seen floating and hitting the ceiling, he previously said.
The inside of the home was covered in dirt, oil and sewage, he had said.
But this was nothing new to Petty. His home continuously flooded, resulting in endless repairs. One year, the home got water 17 times.
“It was almost like a relief after this one,” he previously said. “I don’t have to clean it anymore.”
Once Sandy struck, Petty had to modify the plans that were already submitted to the zoning board. Adjustments had to be made to meet the new flooding regulations.
Petty’s home, which was already demolished, sat in an A6 zone and is now located in a V10 zone. It is recommended the home be raised 10 feet above sea level.
FEMA designated flood prone areas as zone A Approximate flood zones. Zone A is based on FEMA's best guess of where flooding would occur in a 100-year flood event. The V zone designates a Coastal Velocity Zone, where the hazards of flooding increase because of wave velocity. Homes in a V zone must be raised higher.
“You’re seeing a lot more varied flood zones,” Engineer Jason Marciano said. “Before in Lacey, you didn’t see any V zones…The worse Lacey is seeing on the new advisory flood maps is a V10.”
The entire structure has to be raised above the flood zone, he said, and everything below that has to be open to flood waters or built with breakaway walls.
What would typically be seen along the oceanfront is now going to be built along the Forked River Beach area, Marciano said.
Petty’s original design would raise the home with a 38-inch crawl space but with the new flooding regulations, he is required to raise it further.
The top of the piling will be 12 feet above sea level, and the first floor will be at 13 feet, Marciano said.
With an irregular lot, the new home will be two stories with an attached one-car garage. The dwelling will be built up on pilings.
This brings the house to 38 feet high, over the height limit of 35 feet.
“This is sad for the homeowner there but we’re right on the water, and this building is going to be the tallest. That’s going to create a problem right there,” board member Colleen Bradley said.
This property on Koa Drive is 2.5 feet lower than Beach Boulevard, Marciano said.
“It’s a condition of the lot…When your road is set at a certain elevation, you have to work with that,” he said, in addition to working with the recommended flooding elevations.
The zoning board granted variances for insufficient lot area; insufficient lot width; lot frontage waterfront setback; front, side and rear yard setbacks and accessory use in the front yard.
“Some of these variances are created strictly by a storm advisory flood elevations,” Marciano said.
Four of the variances are to keep the remaining shed, which was unscathed, on the property. At this point, the shed has “sentimental” value, Marciano said.
Life in ‘Slow Motion’ Since Sandy
Hunter lives at his Molokai Drive home eight months out of the year, he said. Having evacuated to his Allentown home during the storm, he returned to Forked River a couple days later.
A boat had floated onto his neighbor’s porch and trees were down, he said. Hunter’s fence had been uprooted, items he latched down were gone and walls in homes failed.
“You could see the velocity of the water,” he said. “Things on the back deck floated off.”
Hunter returned to a home, which was already on two-foot pilings, with a foot of water, muck and fish inside.
He immediately opened the windows to prevent mold and over the next few weeks proceeded to remove carpeting and dry wall.
“It’s stripped. We’re monitoring moisture in the house,” he said.
Hunter got approval to renovate and raise his existing single-family dwelling. He received insufficient lot area, insufficient lot width, front setback, side yard setback and total side yard combination variances.
“The thought of elevating the house has always been on my mind,” he said.
“I love where I live. I love Lacey Township,” he said of his decision to finally elevate the home.
The home, previously in an A6 zone, is now in a V9 zone, according to FEMA’s advisory base flood elevation maps. To meet the recommended elevation, the home would have to be raised at least nine feet above sea level.
“The plan is to comply with the flood insurance requirements that I believe are going to be very significant coming down the road,” he said, adding that the current structure is based on standards dating back to 1986.
Hunter will have 2.5 feet of fill brought in because his lot is the lowest on Molokai Drive.
“If there’s a hint of rain or a nor’easter comes through, I’m flooded,” he said.
The home will ultimately be raised 14 feet, he said. The current pilings will be cut off from the home and the structure will be lifted to the street while new pilings are installed.
“You’re pretty confident that you’ll be out of harms way going that high,” Hunter said. “There’s very few movers that can do this…It’s going to be an art, really.”
A retaining wall was also proposed to the right of the property.
Life has been in “slow motion” since the superstorm struck, Hunter said.
“You grieve for a little bit and then you move on,” he said.
He has yet to receive money from flood insurance. The insurance adjuster declared $76,000 in damages to the structure alone, Hunter said. Between the insurance’s assessment and the township, he hopes he can apply and qualify for funding from FEMA to lift his home.
In the meantime, Hunter has taken out a loan to cover costs moving forward.
“I’m not letting that stop me,” he said.
‘Sandy Hurried the Pace of the Process’
Devoe could not get down to her Hawaii Drive home for four days after Hurricane Sandy.
She bought the Forked River home five years ago and her dad, who has since died, gave her money prior to Sandy to cover the costs of plans to rebuild.
“Sandy hurried the pace of the process,” she said. “This is what he wanted for me.”
The home, which is Devoe’s primary residence, had 44 inches of water. Devoe was prepared for 32 inches, having stacked the couches and raised items.
“The extra foot really did us over. It was just too much water,” she said.
The refrigerator was knocked over, couches shifted and nothing could be saved.
“Everything in the house was destroyed. Basically what it boils down to at this point is to fix the house,” she said. “We’d be repainting, re-sheetrocking, spackling the whole thing. Starting all over again. With the new flood maps in place, we had no choice but to go up.”
The one-story home also was in an A6 zone and is now located in a V9 zone. Devoe proposed demolishing the home and rebuilding a new single-family dwelling. She received variances for insufficient lot area and insufficient lot width.
Due to erosion over the years, Devoe has lost property.
“At one time there was more property here but Ms. Devoe has to deal with the property that she has,” Marciano said.
The new structure will be a two-story home on top of a pile foundation. The first floor will be 10 feet above the road. The new home will also have a deck.
“I think decks are going to be very common with elevated homes,” Marciano said.
Devoe “couldn’t wait” to receive approval from the board and was relieved when she did, she said.
“Everyone’s been wonderful. The township was so cooperative,” she said.
Devoe has also yet to receive funding from FEMA.
Resolutions for each of the application will be approved at the March Board of Adjustment meeting. Petty, Hunter and Devoe can then move forward with rebuilding.