By Dan Moffett

Manalapan town officials have been busy huddling with engineers to try to figure out how to respond to newly released flood elevation standards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the new requirements are “much higher” than levels set in the town’s current code. This creates the prospect of new multimillion-dollar homes being built with elevations 3 or 4 feet higher than those of their next-door neighbors, raising concerns about where the stormwater runoff would go.
“We’re trying to change the code so that property owners don’t always have to come and request a variance for construction,” Stumpf said.
If projects fail to satisfy the FEMA requirements, homeowners will be unable to buy flood insurance.
One possible solution is allowing retaining walls to the rear and sides of properties, which is not allowed in the current code. Stumpf said she hopes to bring options to the commission for consideration soon.
No matter what commissioners decide, the building rules in Manalapan are certain to change significantly because of FEMA’s response to rising sea levels. Ordinance proposals are expected to come before the commission by early next year.
In other business:
• The town is appealing a decision by FEMA to reject reimbursement for COVID-19 hazard pay. The reason the agency gave for denial is that Manalapan did not have a policy in place to deal with a pandemic before April 1.
The question Manalapan officials have is, “What municipality in the country had a policy in place to cover pandemics?”
The town spent roughly $13,500 through June in police and staff hazard pay connected to the COVID-19 outbreak. Full-time officers and water plant employees received $200 per month extra for working during the pandemic, and part-time police and sanitation workers got $100. Stumpf said she’s hopeful FEMA will reconsider the reimbursement request.
• The town has canceled its December holiday events because of the pandemic.
• The next commission meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15, beginning at 10 a.m. Seating is limited in Town Hall because of social distancing requirements and those wishing to attend will be admitted to the chambers on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are no plans to offer telephone or internet participation for the meeting.

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