Of the 574 Miami structures that were inundated with floodwater last month, 426 have been given the green light for renovation, according to the city's permitting officer.
“That means that the owners of those properties can, if they desire, rebuild,” said Jerry Ruse, the Miami city engineer.
Rebuilding in the floodplain comes with some restrictions, according to Ruse and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Owners of properties in the floodplain who are granted permits to rebuild cannot improve the properties more than 50 percent of its pre-flood market value, according to floodplain regulations.
Crossing the 50-percent threshold places the structure into a “new construction” classification which requires that residential structures be elevated above the base flood elevation and commercial properties be either elevated or “floodproofed.”
Ruse said Friday that 133 structures have been declared as damaged beyond 50 percent of their market value - also known as “substantially damaged.” Fifteen properties are still under review.
“We are now into the appeal phase,” Ruse said. “We have had 30 to 40 appeals so far, most have been commercial. We are now starting to see appeals by residential property owners.”
Most of the commercial property owners have won their appeals, according to Ruse. They did so through presentation of pre-flood market value appraisals and repair estimates that satisfied requirements established by the City of Miami and FEMA, according to Ruse.
Ruse said he could not confirm if there are commercial properties that will not be re-opening.
“I can't comment on that until I look again at the numbers,” Ruse said. “I can tell you that there are some who have not yet submitted appeals.”
The appeal process provides property owners with an opportunity to convince the city floodplain official to reverse the “red tag” status that denotes substantial damage and prohibits re-occupation of the property.
The city is now facing the possibility that owners of private and commercial properties that have been substantially damaged may abandon their properties, leaving the city with the responsibility of demolition and maintenance.
City Manager Michael Spurgeon said last week that city administrators had planned to discuss the matter of abandoned properties with FEMA officials last week, hoping to learn more about how federal public assistance may help with the cost of demolition of substantially damaged properties.
“We did not talk about it in great detail,” Spurgeon said. “FEMA officials said that demolition is an eligible activity (when evaluating flood recovery costs), but we decided that we will not disucss it further until a decision on public assistance is official.”
Spurgeon said he is hopeful that a decision on pubic assistance will come this week.