Plan to prevent flood damage could cost New Smyrna Beach homeowners

Living in paradise comes at a cost. Usually, homeowners pay up with high-priced flood insurance, but this time living on the coastal waters of New Smyrna Beach could cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars to prevent even more flooding damage.

On Tuesday, the City of New Smyrna Beach will finalize a plan which has been in the works for around two years.

Nine homes in the historic district of the city have repeatedly flooded and will continue to until it’s prevented. In this case, the Mayor of New Smyrna Beach says the city decided to raise certain homes off the ground using concrete pilings. It's a project which is estimated to cost nearly $2 million.

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"We added this drainage system to facilitate water because what happens is the water just pools up," said Michelle Kelley, a New Smyrna Beach homeowner.

This isn’t the first time Michelle spoke with reporters about flooding issues. In fact, FOX 35 interviewed Michelle after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Naples in 2017. Hurricane Irma transitioned into a tropical storm by the time it hit Volusia County, but still cost FEMA $1.37 billion in damages between tornadoes, storm surge, and rain events.

"This area is prone to flooding, so when we have a major storm, like I said, it's like a swimming pool," she said.

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FEMA paid out $332 million to Volusia County for Tropical Storm Irma. 

The Kelley family relied on insurance claims to recover from the storm.

Shaun Kelley used a tape measure to show the water was once as high as eight inches inside his garage. Each hurricane season since, he and his wife grit their teeth hoping major storms don’t come toward New Smyrna Beach. But, they know it’s inevitable.

"You know there's a risk," Shaun said about living so close to the coast.

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The Kelley family told FOX 35 News they are thankful for the work the city has done in obtaining a large FEMA grant to help prevent further damage in their home. However, they both worry about whether it’s doable.

"We may have to take out a loan, possibly, to cover at least part of that," Shaun said.

FOX 35 did the math and according to the estimate provided by the contractor, Ducky Recovery, LLC, each homeowner will be responsible for $26,586.60 after both FEMA and the city have paid their portion.

"We don't have that sitting around, you know, in the bank," Shaun said.

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Not only will it cost thousands of dollars, engineers have also told the Kelley's that a portion of their home may not be able to be raised with the rest of it, essentially, dramatically decreasing their square footage.

"I’m not going to do a project there where I'm actually gonna lose the house," Michelle said. She also said she wouldn’t have a place to put her dogs and could also lose access to their entire backyard. Parking may become an issue as well.

According to Michelle, the construction phase could kick homeowners out of their own homes for at least six months while the houses are taken off of the foundations and raised above water levels.

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The Kelleys say while a lot is up in the air, they are excited to hear the city’s plan and logistics involved going forward. They are also hoping for more clarity on what exactly this nearly $2 million project will cost them mentally, emotionally, and financially.

"I don't know how many people would actually go through with it or wouldn't be able to at this point," Shaun said.


FOX 35 reached out to the City of New Smyrna Beach for more information. 

Mayor Russell Owner sent the following statement to FOX 35:

"This is the end of a long process began by the previous administration to procure FEMA funding to address several homes that had repeated flooding in NSB. We are seeing it through to completion, but no future such initiatives are being considered at this time. In summary, the overall project amount is $1.9M, with 75% being reimbursed by FEMA, and the 25% local share being split 50/50 by the property owner and City." 

"However, the City's contribution is capped at $35,000 per structure (parcel), thus would not exceed $315,000 in total for all projects and likely will be lower."

"This is clearly not a fiscally sustainable method to address these types of issues at the local level. Thus, we must focus on sustainable development standards for all new construction to make sure we are not handing future generations of residents similar problems to resolve."

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