Should the height of a home in a flood zone be calculated from the ground or the top of the pilings placing the home above floodwaters?

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) is scheduled to take up this question at a 7:30 p.m. public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at City Hall.

At its Dec. 2, 2008 meeting, the P&Z voted to change the height calculation so that house height was calculated from the top of the pilings and not from the ground. The board was responding to concerns from residents about three-story homes being built on pilings as high as a single story, which effectively created houses as high as four stories.

Milford’s residential height limit is 35 feet in single-family zones. None of the P&Z members who made that 2008 decision are serving on the current board.

Attorney Kevin Curseaden is seeking to roll back the clock due to concerns that if such a structure in a Special Flood Hazard Area Zone (SFHA) is damaged or destroyed, and then rebuilt, the home would be non-conforming to the zoning regulations.

Curseaden submitted a proposed regulation change that would essentially calculate the height from the top of the pilings, using wording that is similar in places and different in others to the previous regulations changed in 2008.

“Current regulations and definitions cause existing residential structures on the shoreline in certain flood hazard area zones to be non-conforming if damaged or destroyed by storm or other event; current regulations treat properties in the same zone differently; current regulations do not take into account elevations required of structures in the SFHA zones,” wrote Curseaden in his application.

The proposed change would affect different parts of the Milford zoning regulations. One proposed change adds an asterisk to the city’s 35-foot height limitation for one family residential districts with the referenced statement, “Building height in feet within special flood hazard area zones AE or VE. Notwithstanding any section of these regulations to the contrary, maximum building height in feet in SFHA Zones AE or VE shall be determined as stated in Article XI herein.”

The other change adds text to Article XI, which is the definitions section of the regulations. A more extended definition is added to the definitions of Base Flood, Base Flood Elevation (BFE), and building height within a flood hazard area.

In the current regulations, base flood is also referred to as a 100-year flood, or a flood that might be expected to happen only once every 100 years. BFE is the elevation of the crest of the flood waters.

Building height within a flood hazard area is defined as “including all portions of a building situated below the regulatory flood protection elevation and all portions of basements or that extend above the finished grade adjacent to the building.”

The proposal adds definitions for Design Flood Elevation (DFE) and Freeboard. In Curseaden’s proposal, the Design Flood Elevation would be the base flood elevation, plus freeboard.

Freeboard is a factor designed to compensate for factors that could cause flood heights greater than expected in a given location. Milford currently requires two feet of freeboard.

Curseaden proposes that the Height Measuring Point (HMP) be defined as the Design Flood Elevation, or the Base Flood Elevation, plus the freeboard.