REDINGTON SHORES — A new policy, passed by the Town Commission at a special meeting Dec. 28, will for the first time allow single-family homeowners to repair damage from storms and put their homes back into pre-storm condition without having the repair costs count against the town’s five-year cumulative rule.

The cumulative rule says repairs and remodeling expenses done over the past five years cannot exceed 50% of the home’s total value. If they do, Federal Emergency Management Agency rules relating to new-home construction, such as elevating the house, apply — and those can be expensive. So costly that some homeowners may be reluctant to do the repairs needed to fix to their damaged homes following a storm.

The new policy is specifically designed to encourage homeowners to make the needed storm repairs, by taking those costs out of the five-year cumulative calculation. It does not apply when the home has suffered substantial damage, where the storm damage alone is more than half the value of the house. That would be subject to the FEMA regulations requiring the home to be elevated.

According to Town Attorney Lauren Rubenstein, “This would exempt any of those repairs that would only be the minimal repairs necessary to restore the property back to before-storm-damage condition.” She noted that a homeowner cannot put in a brand-new kitchen that’s worth 10 times more than what was there. “But it allows for somebody getting close to the 50% cumulative (costs over the past five years) to be allowed to make those necessary repairs.”

Mayor MaryBeth Henderson said, “This would be an exception to our five-year cumulative, so that people can put their homes back to pre-storm conditions without it counting against that cumulative.”

Commissioner Michael Robinson said the new policy is a benefit for owners of single-family homes that are older and not elevated, and he urged the commission to pass it.

“The building official and I identified over 200 homes in Redington Shores that suffered some level of water intrusion or damage from Tropical Storm Eta,” Robinson said. “This storm, on top of COVID-19, has certainly made life and the holidays more difficult for all of our residents.”

Approving this policy, Robinson said, “helps our residents deal with these difficulties, and I would move for its adoption.”

The commission passed the policy in a unanimous vote of the four commissioners present. Commissioner Bill Krajewski was absent.

After the meeting, Henderson told Tampa Bay Newspapers she is also working on an ordinance that would reduce the five-year cumulative rule to a one-year cumulative.

It would apply to all home renovations for single-family ground-level homes. That will require a change to the current ordinance, and will need to go through an approval process that includes review by the Planning and Zoning Board and two readings by the Town Commission. That process is underway, said Henderson.