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Monroe County, FEMA and Downstairs Enclosures

What can you store in a downstairs enclosure? The enclosure may be used for "Limited storage", but it may not be equipped for such uses as a kitchen dining room, familly room, office, bathroom, bedroom or workshop according to Monroe County. The County does not want furniture, household furnishings, freezers, refrigerators, washers, dryers, or countertops to be put in a downstairs enclosure or anything that suggests the enclosure is being used as habitable space.

Home owners should be able to store all sorts of stuff in their enclosures. Residents may store anything downstairs that can withstand exposure to the elements and does not have potential of flood damage. Items can be put of shelves above the flood plain level.

You store a kitchen sink in the enclosure, but if the sink is connected to water and wastelines that would be a violation.

 

Monroe County is the only county out of 19,000 counties in the USA where FEMA enforces downstairs enclosures limitations, and sets up restrictions on granting Building Permits and the sale of houses.

 

CURRENTLY

Monroe County currently is utilizing a three-part approach to inspection of downstairs enclosures in an effort to eliminate illegal use of such enclosures and to ensure continuation of subsidized flood insurance

Part 1 of the County program is an inspection on insurance policy renewal. For about five years, homeowners with flood policies have had the lower enclosure inspected to verify adherence to county code before policy renewal. The newest homes were first inspected with the county currently inpecting on homes built in the early 1980s time frame.Part 2 of the County inspection program was an inspection upon sale. This requirement has not been mandated. Home buyers benefited by finding out if the enclosure was non-conforming.

Part 3 of the inspection program held that any time a homeowner required a building permit, that a lower enclosure inspection also be conducted.

County officials estimate there are probably 400 homes yet to be inspected at part of the insurance renewal inspection program.

No figures have been provided as to how many homes have not been inspected because they lacked flood insurance and haven’t needed a building permit.

NEW APROACH

Sometime in February County Commissioners directed their staff to formulate a proposal for renegotiation of the terms of Monroe County participation in the National Floor Insurance Program with FEMA.

The county proposes amnesty, but would charge a fee that wouldl go toward debris removal in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm. The County wants amnesty for all properties where a non-conforming downstairs enclosure existed prior to March 14, 2002. March 14, 2002 is when the County agreed to begin the flood insurance inspection program. Property granted amnesty would have to acquire a special use permit prior to June 1 each year. The permit would require a compliance inspection to ensure that no changes had been made subsequent to the the amnesty agreement and to further ensure against replacement for continued unlawful use should the enclosure be substantially damaged.

Additionally homes built prior to Jan. 1, 1975 would get amnesty, but should those enclosures be damaged or become structurally unstable, they would have to be rebuilt according to current county code for lower enclosures.

Owners that want to upgrade the enclosure would also have to bring it into compliance with the current codes.

Inspection upon sale would be required with documentation before the deed could be transferred.
A fee would be charged for the special use permit based on a percentage of the cost of debris removal to FEMA. Monies would acrue
to FEMA.

 

HISTORY

Eliminating Downstairs Enclosures goes back to the 1974 Area of Critical Concern designation for the Florida Keys by the State of Florida. In 1974 Monroe County began requiring that homes be built be on stilts to elevate living areas above certain flood criteria. In order to prevent developers from converting single family residences into an illegal duplexes, limitations where placed on downstairs enclosures. Since 1975 Monroe County has participated in the Fderal Flood Program.

Prior to 1983, "convenience baths and recreational rooms," were allowed as such uses were not consider "habitational. Such rooms were considered a nonconforming use, which meant they were allowed.

In 1986, the county implemented land use laws which allowed enclosures of 299 square feet for storage space.

By the year 2000, FEMA began mandating inspections of downstairs enclosures. FEMA was concerned about the expense of “debris removal.”

By 2002, FEMA indicated it would omit the Florida Keys from the National Flood Insurance Program should the county did not stop allowing downstairs enclosures and start requiring inspections. The county agreed.

In 2004, a local court ruling ordered that the county could not enforce enclosure regulations because the statute of limitations had run out on such properties. Later that court ruling was overturned.

2009 - Mayor Neugent and the Citizens not Serfs Director met with a FEMA official and State Emergency Management Mitigation Chief Miles Anderson to discuss modifying the inspection program. Nothing is decided, but parties agree to meet again to hash out an agreement. Two FEMA representatives will attend that meeting.

FEMA regulations regarding Monroe County allows using Downstairs Enclosures for storage as well as automobiles, washers, dryers, power tools, benches and more!

Monroe County rules restrict the use of downstairs enclosures more severely.

 

WHAT IS HABITABLE SPACE?


Section 9.5-317(7) of the Monroe County Floodplain Management Ordinance states the following:


NO ENCLOSURE BELOW THE BASE FLOOD ELEVATION SHALL BE CONSTRUCTED OR EQUIPPED FOR SUCH USES AS KITCHEN, DINING ROOM, FAMILY ROOM, RECREATION
ROOM, BEDROOM, BATHROOM OR WORKSHOP.


For Floodplain Management purposes habitable space is referred to as the lowest floor. Section 9.5-4(L-11) of the Monroe County Code and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) definition of lowest floor pursuant to 44 CFR 59.1, Definitions is:

THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE LOWEST ENCLOSED AREA(INCLUDING A BASEMENT). AN UNFINISHED OR FLOOD RESISTANT ENCLOSURE, USABLE SOLEY FOR PARKING OF VEHICLES, BUILDING ACCESS OR STORAGE IN AN AREA OTHER THAN A BASEMENT AREA IS NOT CONSIDERED THE LOWEST FLOOR; PROVIDED, THAT SUCH ENCLOSURE IS NOT BUILT SO AS TO RENDER THE STRUCTURE IN VIOLATION OF THE APPLICABLE NON- ELEVATION DESIGN REQUIREMENTS OF §60.3

Section 9.5-4(H-1) of the Monroe County Code defines habitable floor as:

ANY FLOOR AREA EQUIPPED FOR USES INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO KITCHEN, DINING, LIVING, FAMILY OR RECREATION ROOM, LAUNDRY, BEDROOM, BATHROOM,
OFFICE, WORKSHOP, PROFESSIONAL STUDIO OR COMMERCIAL OCCUPANCY.

 

WHAT IS LIMITED STORAGE?

Section 9.5-317(b)(1)d. of the Monroe County Floodplain Management Ordinance states the following:


THE SPACE BELOW THE LOWEST FLOOR OF AN ELEVATED STRUCTURE SHALL BE USED EXLUSIVELY FOR PARKING OF VEHICLES, ELEVATORS, LIMITED STORAGE OR BUILDING ACCESS PURPOSES. FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS DIVISION LIMITED STORAGE MEANS STORAGE OF LAWN MOWERS, RAKES, WHEELBARROWS AND SIMILAR EQUIPMENT. LIMITED STORAGE DOES NOT APPLY TO HOUSEHOLD ITEMS SUCH AS FURNITURE.

Materials, items, chattel inventory, stock, merchandise, wares, goods, personal property, furniture, household furnishings, freezers, refrigerators, washers, dryers, countertops, tools and anything that cannot withstand exposure to the elements and do not have low flood damage potential are not considered limited storage and should not be stored in enclosures below base flood elevation.

Below base flood elevation limited storage enclosures should be considered bonus space with minimum access to store items that otherwise would be stored outside the building or in a shed.
As a rule of thumb here is a way to think of what “LIMITED STORAGE” is: If you can throw something into the salt water and leave it there for 24 to 48 hours, pull it out, hose it off and it is as good afterward as it was before then it is limited storage. The exception to this is lawnmowers, they will be ruined but they are still considered “LIMITED STORAGE”

 

MONROE COUNTY LINKS TO ADDITIONAL DOWN STAIRS ENCLOSURE

AND FLOOD INSURANCE INFO

http://monroecofl.virtualtownhall.net/Pages/MonroeCoFL_Growth/floodplain

Flood Insurance

What is the Flood Insurance Inspection Program?

How does the Flood Insurance Inspection Program Work?

What is the 50% Rule?

Flood Insurance Inspection Application

Inspection Transfer of Ownership Application

AE Zone Enclosures

VE Zone Enclosures

How to research a lower enclosure

Final Rule Flood Insurance Inspection Program

 

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