The city of Ashbury Park, NJ is in hot water for its plan to create a waterfront private pool club that could eliminate it from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
City board officials recently voted 5-2 in favor of granting preliminary and final site plan approval to developer iStar for the pool club’s construction, located along Ocean Avenue. The club is planned to have a 30 x 100-foot swimming pool, with cabanas, changing rooms, restrooms, and an observation deck – all behind walls as high as 18 feet.
There are concerns that the pool club project could endanger Ashbury Park, in terms of flood insurance. The group Save Ashbury’s Waterfront (SAW) obtained letters and emails from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through an Open Public Records Act, which revealed that the agency informed city officials in March that the project appeared to violate federal standards for development within a floodplain.
FEMA warned Ashbury Park officials that non-compliance with its standards could put the city under probation in terms of NFIP participation. It continued that non-compliance could eventually lead to suspension from the NFIP, effectively canceling federal flood insurance for every property owner in Ashbury Park.
“NFIP participating communities that fail to adhere to NFIP standards may be subject to probation or suspension,” a March 01 FEMA letter to Ashbury Park’s mayor warned.
A probation penalty could include a $50 surcharge on premiums for all NFIP policyholders in the city. But a suspension means policyholders will be unable to renew their policies, no federal grants or loans would be offered in the identified flood zones, nor would federal assistance, mortgage insurance or loan guarantees be provided, FEMA cautioned.
In its letters, FEMA explained that its main concern with the pool club was that the lowest level of the project – the swimming pool’s base – would not be elevated by pylons to a level equal to or above the site’s base flood level.
“SAW has long been concerned about the access and inclusion issues involving the pool club, as well as environmental concerns about building a project in a flood zone,” SAW organizer Kathleen Mumma told NJ Advance Media. “It appears that FEMA shares some of those concerns.”