A public hearing is scheduled at 5 PM tomorrow April, 15 on a proposed change to the town zoning bylaw to incorporate new flood plain maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The hearing is set for the town Human Services Building at 270 Quaker Meetinghouse Road, East Sandwich.
The planning board is holding the hearing in advance of the May 5 Annual Town Meeting. The board is required to hold a public hearing before voting whether to recommend the article.
The proposed change, which would insert the new maps into the zoning bylaw, is listed as Article 22 on the town meeting warrant.
Building inspector Paul D. Spiro said the town has been using FEMA maps that date from 1989.
The agency released proposed new flood plain maps last year for review and possible appeal.
If Town Meeting voters approve, the new flood plain maps will go into effect on July 16.
Mr. Spiro said that although Sandwich could reject the new FEMA maps, the town’s residents then would forgo access to government-subsidized flood plain insurance and need to seek private flood insurance.
The building inspector said most of the growth in the town’s flood plain can be found near the Cape Cod Bay shore.
Mr. Spiro said the bulk of the change includes the substitution of the new flood plain maps for those dating from 1989.
He said language in the current bylaw tied in with the 1989 maps needs to modified here and there, but that there are no substantive changes other than the new maps.
The building inspector said the 11th hour timing of today’s hearing is not ideal—5 PM on Good Friday at the start of a holiday weekend—but that the planning board had to belatedly schedule the public hearing in time for a vote on the article.
The planning board had been holding off, he said, because Congress has not yet passed the latest version of the program.
But Mr. Spiro said town counsel subsequently advised the board that the proposed maps stood separately from other possible changes in the federal flood program, and recommended the planning board move forward with the hearing.
While the board will answer questions from the public about the new maps and the federal flood program at today’s hearing, Mr. Spiro anticipates the board and Town Meeting voters will approve the change.
To do otherwise, the building inspector said, is to “play Russian roulette with a bullet in every chamber.”