The city of Beaufort is one step away from making it easier -- and potentially cheaper -- for property owners to make minor additions to homes in flood zones.
Beaufort's flood ordinance requires that all additions, regardless of size or cost, be built above the 100-year flood level, or "base flood elevation."
But that can pose a challenge for owners of houses built before regulations required new construction to be above flood level, planning directory Libby Anderson said. A walk-in closet or kitchen expansion would have to be built higher than the rest of the first floor if the original structure is below flood level. Requiring a step or two up into an elevated addition often is not practical, Anderson said in a staff report.
On Tuesday, City Council gave preliminary approval to allow additions no larger than one-third of the existing structure to be built at the same grade as the existing building. A second reading is required for passage.
"This would provide a little relief for those homeowners," Anderson said.
The change would apply to several neighborhoods -- about 1,100 homes in all, Anderson said.
The city would still require "substantial" improvements, those costing 50 percent or more of the home's market value, to be elevated to the base flood elevation unless the owner gets a variance.
Local builder Allen Patterson said the change could save people money.
"It allows more flexibility for people who are doing minor renovations," said Patterson, president of the Home Builders Association of the Lowcountry. "I think it's a good thing."
At the council meeting, Anderson said the change wouldn't jeopardize the city's flood insurance rating.
Beaufort's ordinance still would comply with the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program, which requires only that new construction and "substantial" improvements be elevated to the base flood elevation, she said.
Follow reporter Juliann Vachon at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.