Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Article from The Record Regarding Hurricane Sandy
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March 05 (The Record, Bergen County, NJ) -- Thousands of Jersey Shore owners whose homes were flooded by superstorm Sandy are now facing the most crucial decision yet: raise, sell or raze.
     Is it cheaper to elevate or demolish? How long a wait will there be for insurance and grant money? Can the emotional attachment to homes -- some of which have played host to generations of family members -- be broken? Add to that a need to learn what a "base flood elevation level"
is, become knowledgeable about local building codes, and then find the cash to make it all happen.
     Making the call is proving to be stressful at the least, and, in some cases, paralyzing for owners.
     "It's a very, very difficult time to make those kinds of decisions because the trauma has been so fresh and recent,"
said Adriana Fitzsimmons, consultation liaison director of psychiatry at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune Township.
"That kind of trauma, life-threatening experience and all that loss puts them in situations where they're more likely to be emotionally unstable."
     After coping with the initial shock of the damage to their properties, owners have experienced peaks and valleys of anxiety as they've tackled debris removal and cleanup in the months after the October superstorm, said Eric Rice, a disaster response crisis counselor who is the Monmouth County team leader for the Mental Health Association in New Jersey's Hope and Healing Project.
     With so many choices, homeowners are overwhelmed and having difficulty moving forward.
     "Right now, they're just burned out," Rice said. "People are just emotionally and physically tired and they're so worn down that they can't think clearly anymore."
     Rules fuel frustration
     What has hindered decisions is the governor's recent adoption of FEMA advisory base flood elevation maps that will require many residents to build higher. If owners don't comply, they face spikes in flood insurance premiums.
     While FEMA plans to issue finalized maps in the coming years, some homeowners are worried that elevation levels will change and their efforts will be for naught. In addition, towns that have adopted flood elevations that exceed FEMA's recommendations -- to be on the safe side
-- and people are further confused.
     "We are slammed right now with estimates, but people are afraid to move forward because there aren't a lot of answers,"
said Patrick Barton, a principal of Crystal Springs Construction, which specializes in lifting homes. "We have a lot of verbal commitments of people who want us to do the work, but either the town hasn't issued permits or they haven't established the height [restrictions] or people haven't gotten their insurance money or they received money that's a third of what it should have been."
     The company has performed at least 150 house-raising estimates, he said.
     Unfortunately, Barton said, he believes many frustrated owners will opt to sell their properties. One out of every four property owners for whom he has provided estimates has asked whether he's interested in buying the home, he said.
     John McHugh, a broker with Re/Max Bay Point Realtors in Point Pleasant Beach, said he hasn't seen an overwhelming number of homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties -- the hardest-hit areas in the state -- go on the market. But he expects that number to grow.
     For most owners though, it's still too early to make that call, he said.
     "They haven't fully exhausted the insurance process and other money may be out there," McHugh said. "And they're also sitting on their hands a little bit because of the advisory maps."
     Decisions on hold
     Gina McDonnell, an Oakland resident whose Seaside Heights summer home was flooded throughout, remains in a holding pattern while she learns whether she will receive added benefits through the National Flood Insurance Program. She and her husband, Dan, could receive up to
$30,000 of Increased Cost of Compliance funds to elevate, relocate or demolish their ranch-style home, which is intended to reduce future storm risk.
     The couple qualifies for the funds because their structure sustained damages of more than 50 percent of the value of their home.
But if they accept the funds, they must commit to lifting the house within four years.
     They are also applying for funds through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Towns apply for the funds by listing potential projects, such as building a seawall or raising homes in a particular neighborhood, and the state distributes the funds, said Chris McKniff, a FEMA spokesman.
     And the McDonnells are waiting for their flood insurance reimbursement check to clear before moving forward.
     FEMA's flood maps show the McDonnells' home is in a zone requiring their house to be 8 feet above the mean high tide line, according to Seaside Heights construction officials.
     An engineer must determine the height of their structure and how much it would have to be lifted, she said.
     McDonnell has compared the $30,000 cost of raising her house to the
$12,000 annual flood insurance tab she could eventually face if she does nothing.
     She still needs to figure out what types of repairs the grants would cover, if approved. For example, she wonders whether the funds to elevate the house would include replacement of her front porch.
     "If you don't get compliant and are way below, then you're at risk if you ever want to sell," she said. "Who's going to want to buy a house where the flood insurance is going to be so much more?"
     Another option would be to knock down the Sumner Avenue house and build an elevated modular home, but those costs run about $85,000, she said.
     One choice she's ruled out? Selling the property, McDonnell said.
     But deciphering the best choice is becoming extremely stressful, especially as summer approaches and the couple want to use their house, she said. The McDonnells haven't yet progressed with any repairs to their ranch-style home other than ripping out the floors and removing waterlogged items.
     "This is work," she said. "You're on the phone and researching things on the computer and it's a lot more involved than people think.
It's not a simple answer because sometimes you have to wait to find out something else before you take the next step."
     McDonnell also marveled at how different Seaside Heights'
landscape will look with all of the altered homes.
     The views in Union Beach, a working-class town in Monmouth County that was battered by the storm, have already changed.
Where four Front Street homes owned by Constantine Zois once stood, there are now vacant lots.
     One of them, known as the Princess Cottage, was an 1855 brick home that Zois' son lived in year-round, and he and his sister frequented during the summer. The yellow colonial -- which was the oldest home in town and had survived countless nor'easters and storms -- was sheared in half by Sandy. It was later demolished after Zois and his sister investigated saving the home but learned it could not be salvaged.
     They hope to build a home similar in design, Zois said. But it depends on whether they can find funds because they didn't carry flood insurance on the property.
     "In a way it was a symbol of the entire town of Union Beach," Zois saidadding that he had fond childhood memories of seeing it first thing when his family would visit their summer home.
     With the other three empty lots, he plans to use flood insurance reimbursements to pay off his mortgages and possibly sell the properties.
     As for the lone house still standing, he's waiting to see how much insurance money he'll receive.
     "If they give me a sufficient amount of money, I can rebuild," he said. "I'm still leaning in that direction if I can get satisfaction from my insurance company."
     While he's received emergency funds of $20,000 for each of his five homes, he can't take the next step without knowing how much he'll eventually be reimbursed.
     "The whole thing has been stressful and with four months gone, I still haven't gotten any sizable amount of money except the emergency funds," he said.
     Relieving the anxiety
     Techniques for managing stress and anxiety stemming from storms and
     * Limit your exposure to graphic news stories.
     * Get accurate, timely information from credible sources.
     * Seek out and follow expert advice.
     * Educate yourself about the specific hazards.
     * Try to maintain your normal daily routine.
     * Exercise, eat well and rest.
     * Stay busy - physically and mentally.
     * Communicate with friends, family and supporters.
     * Use spirituality and your personal beliefs.
     * Keep a sense of humor.
     * Talk and share your feelings with others.
     Source: State Department of Human Services

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Coastal Modular Group is a collective of New Jersey’s premier modular home builders, designers, engineers, architects and contract professionals. The collective was formed by local New Jersey  builders, engineers, architects and designers to ensure that our New Jersey neighbors receive the best possible direction, service and support in light of the damage incurred after Hurricane Sandy.

Collectively, our team has built hundreds of custom modular homes along the New Jersey Shoreline and that same team consists of lifelong local New Jersey Residents committed to the rebuilding effort and more importantly the people and families that were affected.  The majority of home building the collective has done is in Monmouth and Ocean County New Jersey.  

 Coastal Modular Group - Engineering
If you were affected by or have any questions related to Superstorm Sandy, please give us a call. We are informed and eager to help.  Coastal Modular Group  is located at the Jersey Shore; waterfront designs are one of the mainstays of our business. We have the experience required for site design in shore areas. We are prepared to assist with the following related services:

  • Structural inspections of buildings and foundations of any use
  • Structural inspections of bulkheads and similar waterfront structures
  • Structural engineering designs for reconstruction or new construction, such as:
    • Foundations designs
    • Helical pile designs
    • Timber pile designs
    • Breakaway wall designs
    • Foundation scour protection
  • Land use permitting for reconstruction or new construction, including:
    • NJDEP
    • Local zoning
    • Local construction department
  • Surveying services (including flood elevation certificates)
  • Compliance with FEMA guidelines
  • Peer review

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