Building Height Workshop Update

flood plane

Flood Plain Diagram 100 Year Base Flood Elevation

What To Do About Flooding

For close to four hours on Thursday night, SAB City Commissioners and staff learned about, discussed and debated height limits at the beach, specifically how the base flood elevation is calculated and how the habitable space of a building is determined.

Voted by citizens of St Augustine Beach in 2014 to keep the building height limit at 35 feet, the city was informed that 35 feet can mean a lot of different things depending where the property is situated. The conflict started after the SAB Planning and Zoning Board voted to approve the new Embassy Suites Hotel to be built even though the hotel will sit at 53 feet, 18 feet above the 35 foot limit.

First at the podium was Kevin Partel, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee. Partel explained the different flood zones in the area as well as the state requirements. Because Embassy Suites Hotel crosses the Coastal Control line and a part of the hotel will sit in the “velocity zone”- the building must comply to the Florida Building Code minimum elevation, explained Partel . According to state code, the lowest habitable floor must be elevated above the breaking wave crest of the one hundred -year storm elevation requirements which is close to 18 feet above sea level at the hotel’s location.

Also taken into account were the eligibility requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program which is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Due to the fact that the National Flood Insurance Program underwrites flood insurance coverage only in those communities that adopt and enforce floodplain regulations that meet or exceed NFIP criteria, it is the community’s responsibility to make sure that buildings are built to specification. The commission was also informed on flood insurance cost and how a difference of a foot in elevation can have astronomical costs to a homeowner of thousands of dollars a year.

The workshop also took into account how other city ordinances in the state of Florida limit the building height. They looked at similar cities such as Jacksonville Beach, Sanibel Island and Ponce Inlet. The one common factor was the base flood elevation according to FEMA regulations.

According to the FEMA website, the definition of Base Flood Elevation is:

  • The computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during the base flood. Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) are shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and on the flood profiles.
  •  The BFE is the regulatory requirement for the elevation or floodproofing of structures.  The relationship between the BFE and a structure’s elevation determines the flood   insurance premium.


After much discussion regarding the legal requirements regarding the right of property owners with Doug Burnett, SAB City Attorney, the commissioners were instructed to review other city ordinances and return with suggestions at the December commission meeting.

Have Your Voice Heard At The December SAB City Commission Meeting. Monday Dec 7th @ 7PM