Archive for Thursday, October 28, 2004

Help promised to those in new floodplain map

October 28, 2004

Property owners recently informed that new Kill Creek watershed maps would show their homes and businesses in the floodplain heard that bad news confirmed by city and county officials at a meeting last week. But they also heard that in many cases action could be taken to avoid that fate.

The meeting was scheduled in response to a Johnson County study of the Kill Creek watershed that raised the floodplain as much as four feet in some areas. That study was part of a greater study of the county's seven major watersheds, initiated after the flooding of October 1998, said Kent Lage, manager of the county's stormwater program and one of two Johnson County Stormwater Management representatives at the meeting.

Mortgage lenders require homes and businesses in the floodplain to acquire flood insurance. Of much more concern to those at the meeting was the threat the new map would have on their property values.

The best news De Soto city engineer Mike Brungardt shared was that no homes or businesses were currently in the floodplain and actions could be taken to keep many of them off floodplain maps the Federal Emergency Management Agency eventually adopted.

But the city engineer also said all on the list should get flood insurance to protect their investment, no matter how the issue was resolved.

Brungardt presented those attending a list of the 43 homes and businesses that would be in the new floodplain should nothing be done before the expected FEMA adoption the county's watershed maps in 2007. That number included 38 homes not in the floodplain map adopted in the late 1970s.

All but one of the homes are in the eastern half of the De Meadows subdivision. A number of the subdivision's residents expressed anger that the city allowed them to build there, but Brungardt said the city had no legal grounds to withhold building permits because the developer complied with FEMA regulations. It some cases that required building ground up higher than existing floodplain levels, he said.

De Meadows resident Doug Weis said he was more concerned about the future than the past.

"I find it acceptable today that the city and county have no plans in place to mitigate this problem," he said. "Six months from now, that won't be acceptable."

Mitigation efforts, large and small, were already being considered, Brungardt said. FEMA considered a structure in the floodplain if the lowest point at which the foundation meets the ground was at or below the defined floodplain. If a home or business owner could do something to raise height and verify that with a survey, the home would be out of the floodplain, he said.

Twenty of the structures on the list were less than an a foot below the proposed floodplain and 14 were less than six inches below that level, Brungardt said.

Something as simple as a load of dirt in the right area or modifications to a window well could remove a home from the list, he said.

"It's very feasible a good third of those property owners could do something very simple to bring their homes to that point," Brungardt said.

He would visit those homeowners and business owners soon to share with them where the latest study identified the low point of their homes or businesses, Brungardt said.

De Meadows resident Mike Bussell asked the city to take an additional step of placing grade stakes denoting the proposed floodplain and the maximum height it could rise to with unchecked development upstream.

"I just want to do the work once," he said.

Residents also asked if the city could help with those efforts. That would be a policy decision left to the City Council, but Brungardt said such steps were minor compared to those cities sometimes take steps to mitigate flood threats, such as buying out threatened homes.

There is a 1/10-cent county sales tax dedicated to stormwater management efforts, Lage said. He didn't know, however, if the money could be used for surveys and flood prevention efforts at individual homes. Staff would make that decision in the context of mitigation efforts throughout the county, he said.

It was essential an effort be made to find a solution, Anderson said. He invited affected residents to join him in demanding the county follow up on the proposal of stormwater staffers that measure be taken to prevent upstream development from raising the floodplain maps again in the future.

The mayor also said residents had to remain aggressive in forcing the city and county to follow up on proposed retention lakes that would remove most homes from the floodplain.

County flood management sales tax revenue could also provide a 75-percent match for upstream retention ponds. One such proposed pond would remove all but five homes from the future flood plain.

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