By John Mullen

Dr. Harvey Joanning doesn’t understand why his home was deemed to be in a flood plain.

His home in the Covered Bridge subdivision is one of the areas added to the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood hazard zone on the new maps released in July.

“One of the things that Dr. Joanning has, he shot an elevation certification at his house that shows the flood zone going right through his property,” Fairhope EMA Coordinator Eric Cortinas said. “The map says the base flood for that area is 47 feet above mean sea level. His house is 84 feet above mean sea level.”

Joanning and his neighbors, including former Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant, are questioning the designation and plan a formal request to FEMA for relief.

“That is a prime candidate for a letter of map revision because what they basically did was kept the previous data,” Cortinas said. “Evidently, they didn’t shoot lidar at your house so they wouldn’t have seen the elevation.

“Former Mayor Kant came to see me. He’s in the same situation. He’s got the gully at the end of his lot, so his lot touches the flood zone. He had to get an elevation certificate for his insurance, but he’s 45 feet above base flood.”

Residents have 12 months from the time the maps are released to file either a letter of map amendment or a letter of map revision.

“If you disagree with any of the determinations made on the map, you have the opportunity to request a map amendment,” Cortinas said. “If you show data to FEMA showing that flood zone determination is inaccurate, they will amend the maps based on that.”

Joanning said he and his neighbors will talk about a joint filing with FEMA to object to being in the flood hazard zone.

“Could I get together with all of my neighbors, who have the exact situation that I have going on, and use one letter of revision?” he asked. “Every one of my neighbors is going to go nuts as soon as I come tell them.”

Joanning said being ruled inside the zone will adversely affect his property.

“That’s why I want to get out of the flood zone,” he said. “It will increase the value of my property significantly if I can get out of the flood zone.”

Cortinas said the increase in flood zones in Fairhope came about because creeks, dry creek beds and gullies in the town were mapped for the first time. And since the last maps were released in 2007, several subdivisions have sprung up along the banks of these waterways.

“This was all built and developed before there was a flood zone,” Cortinas said. “They are now in a flood zone. If they have a federally backed mortgage, they’re going to get a call from their mortgage company and you have to purchase flood insurance. Since they were built before the mapping was done, they will be able to get flood insurance at the grandfathered rate.”