Flood-insurance rates for Beaufort homeowners could drop by as much as 15 percent because of improved city policies and practices.
That could lop $110 off the average annual policy premium, city officials say.
The Insurance Services Organization informed city officials last week that it is recommending the city's "community rating system," or risk rating, be upgraded.
The organization reviewed Beaufort's stormwater drainage systems and policies last spring and credited the city for its regulatory standards, stormwater management and drainage system maintenance, according to a city news release.
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The ISO analyzes factors that indicate how vulnerable property would be in a disaster. It assigns risk ratings on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being best. Lower scores usually indicate less risk and therefore lower premiums.
The ISO recommended Beaufort's rating change from 8 to 7. Beaufort County was upgraded from 7 to 6 this year, and premiums for some residents in unincorporated areas will drop as much as 20 percent, the county has said.
Much of Beaufort is within the Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain, with downtown and areas along the marshes of most concern.
According to the National Flood Insurance Program, which offers insurance to homeowners, renters and businesses in participating communities, 1,517 flood insurance policies covered more than $396 million worth of property and belongings in the city as of Oct. 31.
Those policies cost a combined $1.1 million, or an average of $739 annually. A 15 percent reduction would lower the average bill by about $110. City Council approved changes to the flood ordinance last month.
"There's a remote possibility that without this (change) we couldn't be in the flood insurance program," planning director Libby Anderson said.
Those changes included only allowing storage, not living space or equipment, in areas of new homes that are below the flood line. The ordinance previously allowed half baths in those areas.
Also added to the ordinance was language allowing homeowners to submit a letter of "map revision" to FEMA if they believe their property should not be in the flood zone. Other changes dealt with pools and elevators below the flood level.
ISO's report and rating improvement rewarded changes such as adoption and use of the International Series of Building Codes, staff education, soil and erosion control, water quality, capital improvements plan and enforcement of rules prohibiting dumping trash into the drainage system.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.