FEMA Debris Removal Rules for Costal Associations

FEMA policy set forth in the reference states “FEMA regulations provide for FEMA assistance for debris removal when, as a result of a declared emergency or major disaster, the removal of debris from publicly and privately owned land and waters is in the public interest (44 CFR para 206.224(a) ), and is performed by an eligible applicant (44 CFR para 206.223(a)(3) ).”  FEMA guidance includes “when an eligible applicant, such as a local government, undertakes removal of disaster-related debris from public rights-of-way, it is considered to be in the public interest and would be eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.  However, removal of debris from private property, including roadways in private or gated communities, does not necessarily serve the public interest, because the restrictions inherent to private or gated communities limit the exposure of the community-at-large to the hazard posed by the debris.  More importantly, the removal of debris from private or gated communities is not the legal responsibility of an eligible applicant.  Debris on private property is usually the legal responsibility of individual homeowners or a Homeowners’ Association (HOA), aided by reserve funds, insurance settlements, or assistance from volunteers.  HOAs are ineligible for Public Assistance for debris removal from roadways pursuant to FEMA Policy 9521.3, Private Nonprofit Facility Eligibility.”
 
Meetings with FEMA Debris Removal Experts from district IV in Atlanta concluded that the FEMA policy is for gated communities.  It is the responsibility of and at the gated communities’ expense, to remove the debris from the owner’s property and the gated community roads, to the public roads.  FEMA would then consider funding removal of the debris deposited on the public roads.  FEMA representatives stated this was a recent change brought about because of abuses of past policies in Florida during the 2005 hurricane season.
 
Because of the wide application of this policy to gated communities in all coastal states it is requested that the CAI present a unified position from members and other gated communities to the Federal Government to repeal such discriminatory language, and provide gated communities the same assistance and debris removal benefits local governments are provided.  Ownership of and access to private roads falls to citizens who pay as much if not more taxes to all levels of government, and at the same time relieve other levels of such items as road development and maintenance costs.