A section of Landis Avenue near 35th Street experiences minor flooding during the remnants of Hurricane Ian on Oct. 1, 2022.


Sea Isle City hopes to regain its coveted “Class 3” status in the National Flood Insurance Program by adopting a new flood-prevention ordinance that includes innovative measures for protecting the low-lying barrier island from stormwater.

City Council gave the ordinance final approval Tuesday, but agreed to a recommendation by City Solicitor Paul Baldini to postpone formally implementing it until the end of the year to give more time for discussion and fine-tuning.

“I definitely foresee tweaks,” Council President Mary Tighe said of the likelihood of changes in coming months.

Baldini spoke of the challenges ahead of enacting new flood-prevention measures that are supposed to protect Sea Isle in years to come from rising sea levels.

“This is a work in progress. No one is saying it’s done,” he told Council.

Baldini pointed out that beach communities along the entire East Coast are facing the same challenges as Sea Isle while trying to devise a flood-control strategy for years, if not decades to come, amid the uncertainties of climate change and rising sea levels.

“Every community up and down the East Coast is dealing with these problems,” he said.

The long-term goal is to implement “innovative” flood-control measures that will allow Sea Isle to adapt to climate changes that are expected to occur years from now – but without being too restrictive in how homeowners develop their property, Baldini said.

“We’re hoping this is a reasonable approach to an ongoing problem that probably Sea Isle’s faced for the last 50 years,” he said.

Sea Isle City Solicitor Paul Baldini says all beach communities along the East Coast are grappling with flood-prevention plans.

The lengthy ordinance replaces Sea Isle’s old flood-prevention plan and is a critical step in the city’s efforts to regain its Class 3 status in the National Flood Insurance Program.

“As we discussed at the last Council meeting, adoption of this ordinance is a significant part of ensuring that the city retains Class 3 status in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System,” Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.

Sea Isle slipped recently in the nationwide community ranking system used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine the level of discounts homeowners receive on their flood insurance.

Once designated as a Class 3 community, Sea Isle has dropped down to Class 4 following the loss of points formerly given out by FEMA for flood-mitigation measures that towns and cities implemented following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. All communities have lost the “Sandy points,” not just Sea Isle.

Communities that have higher ratings are eligible for bigger discounts in flood insurance policies for their property owners. For instance, a community rating of Class 4 would trigger discounts of 30 percent, Class 3 would be 35 percent and Class 2 would be 40 percent.

Desiderio said that Class 3 status collectively saves Sea Isle’s property owners about $800,000 annually on their flood insurance.

“Sea Isle was the first city in New Jersey to achieve Class 3 status several years ago. We hope to be the first to get to Class 2,” he said.

A rock wall that overlooks the marshlands at 29th Street and Central Avenue serves as a barrier against floodwater.

Over the years, Sea Isle has implemented a series of major flood-mitigation projects, such as restoring the beaches and dunes, building bulkheads along the bayfront, reconstructing the roads, improving the drainage systems and erecting berms, levees and rock walls to block stormwater.

The city has also built a stormwater pumping station in the flood-prone bayfront neighborhood at 38th Street and Sounds Avenue. City officials say more pumping stations will be built to protect low-lying neighborhoods vulnerable to flooding.

Baldini explained that Sea Isle’s new ordinance includes local requirements that are even more rigorous than some of the flood-mitigation standards used by the state of New Jersey and the federal government.

They include the construction of retaining walls for new homes to prevent soil from running off onto surrounding properties. The retaining walls are optional under the ordinance, Baldini said.

Sea Isle will also have more building inspections to make sure that homes are complying with the flood-protection standards.

Some of the tougher requirements include higher base elevation standards for new construction projects to protect Sea Isle’s homes from flooding. The base elevation level for garages in new homes would be 7 feet.

Councilman Jack Gibson strongly questioned whether 7 feet would be necessary for home construction across the island, especially in areas not prone to flooding. He expressed concerns that the 7-foot requirement would create driveways that are too steeply sloped down to the sidewalks and streets.

“This is an unreasonable thing in Sea Isle City, citywide, elevation 7. You’re going to have cars parked in driveways, somebody forgets to put the emergency (brake) on and the car falls back in the street and little kids are running around. It’s a safety hazard,” Gibson said.

Gibson welcomed Council’s decision to delay the start date of the ordinance until the end of the year to give city officials more time to study the plan.

Flashing signs installed throughout the city in 2019 are part of Sea Isle’s flood-warning system.