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Flood Plain Control Questions

Dragon

Cyburbian
Messages
750
Points
21
The Planning Dept. for the county I work in took over the Flood Plain Administration duties around August last year. After working with it for months we have discovered some cracks, and are looking to improve the system.

As it stands, there is no zoning in the county, nor is there any building codes. This leads to many people not even bothering to ask if there is anything they need to do or check before they do whatever to their land. The only check we have for people coming in for Flood Plain verification is to have the power company acknowledge a permit before setting up power. The problem with this is that some people slip through. In almost 6 months, we haven’t had one commercial permit/certification, which one would think there should be more.

There are plenty of gaps in this the boss and I have discovered. One lady happily announced that, “I’m getting the power switched over in my name, but I already have power because Mr. X knows someone at the power company and they just turn power on for him.” This guy owns a trailer park, which is ever expanding and is close to a flood zone.

Another thing that happens is that people will build a home, THEN go looking for a permit/certification. We discovered one of these by chance. The guy is building an elevated home in a flood plain, unpermitted.

My question is, how do we improve? The power company may be working albeit limitedly. Ideas around the office thus far are getting the E911 personal to ask to see the permit before giving a new home an address. Also, asking the Health Dept. to ask for the permit before issuing a septic tank permit, and the same for connecting to existing water and sewer lines.

What about pre-FIRM homes, in the flood zones, that are being “substantially” improved. The county is 470+ sq. miles; the 2-man office can’t patrol all of that. The Sheriff’s dept. has other stuff to worry about. Or is that one of those things that gets through, and there is nothing to be done about it?
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,369
Points
29
no building/zoning permits = no effective way to enorce anything else - like it or not some form of zoning is basic
 

Dragon

Cyburbian
Messages
750
Points
21
Lee Nellis said:
like it or not some form of zoning is basic

I agree there, but the boss and I work for elected officails that do not think the public wants/needs Zoning or Building Codes. My thinking is that if we get penalized by this and fined for Storm Water management, they will change their minds. Money talks.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,369
Points
29
The best strategy may indeed be to just let it go. If things get bad enough you may find the electeds changing their tune.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,503
Points
41
Call the feds. Really. FEMA will be happy to show your county officials and citizens the benefits of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program. Your local insurers and housing finance people ought to be there as well. Got an ag extension office? Get them there, too. Builder's Association, Realors? Ditto.

Think of it as sowing seeds.

Know this fact: you are more likely to suffer a financial loss from flood damage than you are from a fire over the 30-year life of a typical mortgage (source: FEMA). Would you not insure your house against fire damage?
 

Dragon

Cyburbian
Messages
750
Points
21
Gedunker said:
Call the feds.

I appreciate the input there, but we are already part of the NFIP. As a matter of fact we are trying to get into the Community Ratings program as well to reduce the cost of flood insurance.

The problem is enforcement. How can we persuade people to come to us first for a Flood Permit/Certification? There is no cost, and we’ve got it down to an art. It only takes about 6 minutes.

A guy called me the other day asking questions about what he needed to build a new home on his property. I told him our very few requirements, found out his address, and told him he would be in a flood zone, and would need an elevation certificate before I could give him a permit. He told me, “So what happens if I just go out and build my home without coming to you guys first? You gonna come down and lock me up?” 8-! :-@ That irked me a bit.

I should have said the police and I will show up, with gas and matches. :p
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,503
Points
41
Dragon said:
I appreciate the input there, but we are already part of the NFIP. As a matter of fact we are trying to get into the Community Ratings program as well to reduce the cost of flood insurance.

That's great!

Dragon said:
I should have said the police and I will show up, with gas and matches. :p

That's probably a bad idea ;-)

I still think an educational campaign is the way to go -- if not FEMA, maybe the state Division of Water (or whomever) would hold a workshop. Two guys for 400 + sq. mi. is impossible (I'm one guy in 21 sq. mi and I'm overwhelmed with late-night fillers, mostly). You have to have some assistance from the community at large. Post informational flyers at the hardware stores (or are ya'll so independent that ya'll are milling/planing your own lumber ;-) ).

I hope that it doesn't take a flood to wake the community to the risks of bulding unregulated in the floodway--floodway fringe. The consequences in personal and property loss.

BTW: get used to hearing -- "I was here for the big flood in (some year) and my property didn't get wet at all". If I see anything good, I'll post a link for you.
 

Dragon

Cyburbian
Messages
750
Points
21
Gedunker said:
That's probably a bad idea ;-)
Of course. :p However, if we did fine someone like this, and do other legal actions, the press would probably pick it up, and it would get the news out to the public that we mean business.

BTW: get used to hearing -- "I was here for the big flood in (some year) and my property didn't get wet at all". If I see anything good, I'll post a link for you.
I've heard it enough already. |-)

I appreciate the input. Real Estate brokers do tend to call and ask about Flood Plain issues. The developers are the problem.

I’ll see what the boss thinks about some PSAs. Workshops don’t work to well. No one ever shows up for them.
 

jestes

Cyburbian
Messages
230
Points
9
Thanks for everyone's response to Dragon's post. If you don't know by now, I am the boss that he keeps referring to. Our county has some basic permitting requirements, the main one being the NFIP, floodplain development permit. We also require pre and post certifications of new septic systems by the health department.

The main problem here as Dragon alluded to is that there is no real precedence for people to come to the county for permits. They are used to doing it in the municipalities, just not in the county. For those of you familiar with NFIP terminology, most of our county is comprised of un-numbered "A" zones with some of the county floodplain designated as "AE" with BFE's established. I have considered making it a requirment that a property owner or developer have a valid Floodplain Development Permit in hand before being issued an E911 address. That should catch 80-90% of those falling through the cracks. However, those properties being substantially improved and that already have an address are really the ones that we are having problems with.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,503
Points
41
jestes said:
However, those properties being substantially improved and that already have an address are really the ones that we are having problems with.

You have to impress upon the lenders, insurers, appraisers, builders, and local government officials that your participation in the NFIP is at stake by these substantial improvements sans permit. They have got to start taking it seriously or else people will not be able to get flood insurance, which means banks won't lend money, builders won't build, appraisers will have nothing to appraise and taxes will dry up. And, heaven forbid a 1% flood does come ....

Does your state DNR do periodic compliance visits?
 

jestes

Cyburbian
Messages
230
Points
9
Does your state DNR do periodic compliance visits?

We just had a joint state/federal community assistance visit (CAV) a few months ago. We had a few procedural/administrative issues but no real findings. Part of the problem is that we assumed responsibility of this program with no real training. However, I just came back from a field deployed version of EMI's NFIP course.

After participating in that I feel much more confident in my (our) ability to administer the program. Mainly we are just trying to find ways to make what is a fairly decent program better.

The department that was responsible prior to us taking it over had held responsiblity for NFIP since '88 and was doing the bare minimum that was required just to keep the county out of trouble. They had no computerized records. In fact, all permits were kept in three ring binders. We have since computerized the permits and they are currently being maintained on a database (with paper backups). At least this way if, several years down the road, we need to locate an old permit we can without hours spent sorting through paper documents.

We have also incorporated our NFIP into our GIS system. That in itself makes the permitting process much more efficient.

While we are on the subject, how many of you are Floodplain administrators for your jurisdiction in addition to your other duties?
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
25,856
Points
61
jestes said:
While we are on the subject, how many of you are Floodplain administrators for your jurisdiction in addition to your other duties?

In my fair city/county this is split -
Building Commission administers the Elev. Certs. & establishes FPG, 2 ft freeboard.
Area Plan Commission ensure subdiv plats have Floodplain notation and FPG on each lot prior to recording.
I am responsible for the CRS.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,523
Points
23
I'm not familiar with your jurisdiction, laws or funding schemes, but there may be lessons from the Chinese here. I see eG sit up to take notice of the pay off (finally) from all those APA moneys.

I understand that when planning for relocations associated with the three gorges dam roject was being done, an official with yellow (prophetic) paint simply painted the limit of flooding on the ground, across buildings etc. Everyone under the line had to be moved, everyone above stayed.

This could work - Dragon, a hand held GIS, some cans of spray paint and an all terrain vehicle should be able to finish the job in about a month (if he's fair dinkum and not slacking too much on Cyburbia jestes). ;-)
 
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