York County properties removed from and added to new federal flood map


A new Federal Emergency Management Agency-imposed flood plains map that will go into effect in December 2016 is expected to reduce the overall number of York County properties in the flood plain, where flood insurance is mandated for some types of mortgages.

The county's flood plain will shrink by about 600 parcels, and that might be a relief for some Yorkers.

Downsides of being included on the flood plain map include higher rates for flood insurance, potentially lower property value and an inability to build new structures on one's property, said Kurt Leitholf, chief of the municipal planning division for the York County Planning Commission.

Purchasing flood insurance is a personal choice, he said, unless a homeowner has a federally insured mortgage, in which case the insurance would become required.

Updates: The map, which was last updated in 2008, places properties in the 100-year flood plain — meaning a property has a 1 in 100 chance each year of being flooded, based on factors including elevation, where structures are built and relation to the nearest stream, said Wade Gobrecht, chief of information systems for the planning commission.

The map is being updated as a result of access to new LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology that can accumulate more accurate data, he said.

While the number of properties in flood plains will be lower, the new map will add parts of the county to the flood plain as well.

Gobrecht, who worked closely with FEMA officials on the map, said there could be major additions in Penn Township and Lewisberry and reductions in New Freedom.

Leitholf said the new map was first released on a preliminary basis in late 2013, with FEMA notifying municipalities and townships of any changes.

The maps are public, but it is the responsibility of each municipality and township to alert its citizens of any changes, Leitholf said.

A cheaper insurance rate can be "grandfathered in" for those added to the flood plain if they purchase the flood insurance before the map is active, said Roy Livergood, a senior planner for the planning commission.

However, that "preferred risk-policy rate" will only last one year before rising 18 percent each year until it hits market value. A surcharge also will be added on those properties, Livergood said.

Those with properties being removed from the flood plain won't see cheaper rates until the map is enacted, and Livergood was not sure if insurance companies would be required to contact customers about the potential for a lower rate, he said.

Affected business: Keith Kahlbaugh, a real estate agent at Bennett Williams Commercial, said he's aware of some of the properties he was looking to sell being added to the flood plain but wasn't aware some could be removed.

"I personally know some properties (on the flood plains map) that have never seen any concern no matter how much rain there's been," Kahlbaugh said.

As for those properties added to the flood plain, Kahlbaugh said it wasn't much concern as any potential buyer would just have to understand it's "the cost of doing business," but a property composed mostly of empty fields or lots would definitely see a decrease in value if added, as it could prevent future construction.

Leitholf advised any interested property owner to visit the commission's map portal at http://yorkcountypa.maps.arcgis.com/home/. Users can type in their addresses to see if their properties have been added, removed or remain in the flood plains.