Builder to help get 60 houses off flood-zone list Bluffs residents feared lower property values

June 19, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

John Finnessy was shocked when he learned in March that he was living in a flood zone -- three years after he bought the two-story townhouse in the Bluffs at Deep Creek community.

"It was confusion," he recalled. "It was, like, 'What happened? We have the settlements and all that tells us we're not in a flood zone and now we are?' "

He and some 60 other homeowners in the subdivision just east of the Bay Hills Golf Course were talking about lawsuits until Ryland, the company that built their homes, agreed to pay up to $20,000 in engineering costs and other fees to get the homes off a flood-zone list compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Finnessy announced the agreement at a community association meeting Monday night. "It's wonderful that Ryland's going to resolve it," said Nicole Weigman, whose home on Seminole Drive is on the list. "That's nice."

Residents had feared that the flood-zone label would lower their property values and force them to buy expensive flood insurance, Finnessy said.

Sharon Green, a spokeswoman for the Columbia developer, said the company plans to "work with our homeowners to come up with a program that suits their needs."

Angela Stuart, supervisor of escrow administration for Ryland, said the company would pay the $500 fee per unit to complete a 23-page application to revise FEMA's maps. Ryland considers that about eight townhouses make up one unit.

The process also requires engineering surveys, which could cost another $500 per unit, but Stuart said Ryland would try to save money by sending original surveys.

When buyers financed their homes in the 150-townhouse community through Ryland five years ago, they were told the townhouses were not in a flood plain.

But an internal audit this year showed that 60 homes on Doral Court, Quaker Ridge Drive, Seminole Drive and Tribal Court are in a flood zone, Stuart said.

Dan Joyce, a natural hazards program specialist with FEMA, said he does not know how the homes got on the list, but he noted they are close to Deep Creek and the Magothy River.

Flood zones are determined by topography, elevation and history of the land, he said.

Finnessy said the homes are on a cliff that is several feet above the high-water mark of the Magothy River.

Residents said they were pleased to learn of Ryland's offer to pick up the cost of getting off the list.

"They're a stand-up company," said David Luecke, president of the community association. "It's refreshing to see a company stand up to its actions and move forward."

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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