Cape May’s new Convention Hall has been a controversial project since before it opened last year. I covered some of that in April of 2012, but fighting over the Philly Pops is nothing compared to what’s been going on over the $10.5-million building’s flood insurance.
Or, initially, lack thereof. In November, Exit Zero, Cape May’s weekly newspaper, found that Convention Hall did not have flood insurance. That’s right, a building on the beach, next to the ocean, was not covered except for a little dune that was bulldozed in front of it before Sandy. Exit Zero also found that FEMA had, in fact, rejected the city’s application for flood insurnace TWICE between July and when Sandy hit in October.
Why? It turns out that the lowest part of Convention Hall, a 100 sq.-ft. sub pump room, is at an elevation of 8.51 feet. FEMA requires 15 (the floor of Convention Hall is at 15.21 feet). This has nothing to do with recent controversies about revised FEMA maps post-Sandy. These elevations were set pre-Sandy, when Convention Hall was being built.
Someone messed up. Big time.
For 2013, the city has budgeted $121,000 for flood insurance premiums. In the latest twist, they’re now considering suing the architects, engineers, construction manager and general contractor for all “all costs and expenses in connection with this matter, including any additional flood insurance premiums previously paid,” according to a statement from city solicitor Tony Monzo.
What a mess, and an expensive one at that, all over a 100 sq.-ft. room. The good news is that the room can be moved to bring Convention Hall into alignment with FEMA regulations. The bad news is that who pays for it is going to be a messy fight in a building that has already had enough bad press.
Stay tuned to Exit Zero, which you can pick up free all around Cape May or read online, for updates.