Push underway to raise elevation requirements on new construction in Horry County flood zones

Grand Strand

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — An Horry County group has launched a new push aimed at strengthening building requirements in the county.

Horry County Rising’s new campaign is called ‘Don’t Build in the Swamp’ and aims at raising minimum elevation requirements for new developments in flood-prone areas.

“Horry County Rising is really trying to push elected officials to stop investing in these high risk flood zones,” Horry County Rising president and founder April O’Leary told News13 Tuesday. “But if we do, we want to make sure that the elevation standards are good standards.”

Horry County currently has a one-foot freeboard elevation requirement for flood zones. County staff proposed bumping the standard up to at least two feet at a recent flooding subcommittee. County officials said committee feedback favored a three foot requirement.

O’Leary said an online poll showed the majority of Horry County Rising’s members support a three foot requirement. She called the current regulations ‘substandard.’

“Many of the families that built to that elevation standard or families that even exceeded that elevation standard are flooding,” she said. “We found since 2015 is 500 new homes have been constructed in the special flood hazard zones.”

Freeboard elevation is a term commonly used by FEMA. Adding it can help mitigate flood damage and lower flood insurance.

“The National Flood Insurance Program identifies what a flood elevation is,” Principal Planner of Horry County Planning and Zoning Leigh Kane said. “And the freeboard is the distance between the actual floodwaters and your first floor.”

Some county leaders voiced some concern about the proposed change.

“I think we need to be flexible with the regulation and look at where the development is, where the high water levels are, where the flooding has occurred and that kind of thing,” county council member Johnny Vaught said.

The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Committee is expected to discuss the proposal at a meeting next week.

“Base flood elevation requirement only applies to the folks that are in these flood zones,” county spokesperson Kelly Moore said. “Proposed, supplemental, that are in discussion. Certainly there could be further discussion on this but those elevations are meant to mitigate homes flooding and property damage.”

For the proposal to go through, it would eventually need to pass three readings by county council.

“What we want to see constructed in Horry County are basically homes that will sustain generations of families,” O’Leary said “That they don’t ever have to worry about losing all of their financial viability in the future because they flood.”

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