Flood insurance memo discussed at Planning and Zoning Board meeting

At its Sept. 2 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Board had a brief discussion with Joseph D. Griffith, director of permitting and land use, regarding a recent memo from Diane S. Ifkovic, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's (DEEP) coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Griffith said the state recently sent his office an email memorandum outlining six conditions for Milford to meet and requesting more information from Milford about permits issued to homeowners in flood zones. He said two of those six conditions related to specific projects and what procedures were followed to issue permits.

The memo

In her memo, Ifkovic said there have been two potential violations of flood plain development regulations recently in Milford, and without remedy, Milford faces probation, even suspension, from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Ifkovic alleges in her memo that the violations occurred after Former Assistant City Planner Emmeline Harrigan's job was eliminated July 1. Harrigan had been the assistant city planner in Milford until she lost her job due to budget cuts.

“Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program is a mutual agreement between the community and the federal government (FEMA),” Ifkovic's memo states. “FEMA makes flood insurance available to residents in participating communities. The community is tasked with correctly and consistently regulating construction in the flood plain through land use permitting and enforcement procedures. Therefore, the community's role is of paramount importance.

“Unfortunately,” the memo continues, “since the loss of the flood plain administrator position, it is clear that attention to program implementation and staff knowledge is lacking, evidenced by two potential violations that have been brought to this office's attention.”

In her memo, Ifkovic says that in the next 90 days Milford has to fix the problems. The city has to designate a flood plain administrator by Sept. 30, provide training for the administrator, and address concerns at the two coastal properties in question.

The state also wants a list of permits and certificates of occupancy issued in the flood plain for July and August, and then a list of permits and certificates of occupancy issued in the flood plain each month between September and December.

After receiving the memo, Mayor Ben Blake said the city is not in any jeopardy of losing its standing with the national program and said he thought Ifkovic was trying to find fault with Milford based on personal reasons.

Blake followed up on the memo by writing to DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.

The mayor said that Ifkovic seemed to come to Milford to find fault with its administration due to the “loss of the flood plain administrator position,” which was Harrigan.

“To be clear, the City of Milford did not lose a flood plain manager position,” Blake continued. “There has never been such a position in the Milford budget. Ms. Ifkovic is undoubtedly referring to the Milford Board of Finance's elimination of the Assistant City Planner position in April of 2014.”

Blake said while Harrigan was a certified flood plain manager, she wasn't the only city employee to hold that certificate. He said Milford City Engineer Gary Wassmer also holds the certified flood plain manager certificate.

Blake questioned Ifkovic’s loyalty to Harrigan and suggested Milford may be receiving treatment different from other shoreline communities in Connecticut with respect to flood plain oversight.

At this week’s meeting

At this week’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting, Griffith said that with regard to 10 Caroline Street, one of the properties in question, the city has not issued a certificate of occupancy, which Ifkovic thought Milford had issued. At 749 East Broadway, he said there were questions about the review process.

Griffith said Milford submitted to the DEEP a list of projects in the flood plain without permits, those projects for which a certificate of occupancy was issued, and a list of projects for which the city plans to issue a certificate of occupancy.

“We have responded to all of their questions,” Griffith said.

The other conditions that DEEP outlined related to the process by which the city of Milford selects the position of flood plain manager.

“We have people who are qualified,” said Griffith.