Despite objections from a couple of residents, Washington Planning and Zoning Commission members voted unanimously Monday night to recommend the city council adopt new floodplain maps prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The city must officially adopt the maps by Oct. 18. If it fails to approve the new maps, citizens will not be able to purchase flood insurance through FEMA’s national insurance program and if there is a flood, the city may not be eligible for disaster aid, board members were told.
The new maps will replace the current maps that were adopted in 1982.
City Engineer Dan Boyce said the plan is to get the new maps to the city council at its Tuesday, Sept. 6, meeting.
Boyce said the new 100-year floodplain elevations, in some cases, are more restrictive than the old 500-year flood elevations. The flood insurance program is based on the 100-year elevations.
Based on the new elevations, 70 structures currently within the 100-year floodplain would not be if the new maps are adopted, Boyce said. Conversely, about 50 homes and 30 mobile homes would move into the floodplain under the updated maps, he noted.
Roger Langendoerfer, who owns the old Busch Brewery building adjacent to Busch Creek, said FEMA’s numbers “are all over the place. I don’t think they know what’s going on.”
He blamed past city officials for not using money placed in the stormwater management fund to construct detention facilities to control stormwater coming down the creek.
“Twenty years ago something should have been done,” he remarked. “You haven’t made plans to detain that water.”
He said he was surprised that more people affected by the changes were not at the meeting.
Charles Schroepfer said he has been fighting the floodplain process for years and challenged engineering figures in the latest studies.
He asked the plan board to either throw out the maps or table the issue until next month’s meeting when he said he would provide them with more information.
Schroepfer claimed the engineering studies were based on the flash flood of May 2000 when 12 to 14 inches of rain fell on Washington.
He accused city officials of manipulating the elevations on the maps. “The whole thing can easily be proven as fraud,” he remarked.
Boyce said Schroepfer’s allegations that FEMA used the 14-inch rainfall event as the basis for the new elevations “is absurd. It’s ridiculous.”
Boyce said letters were mailed to all property owners affected by the new floodplain maps.
He displayed some maps at the meeting showing where the new 100-year flood elevations extend compared to the old 500-year-old elevations.
The city is recommending that the council adopt a regulation that any new construction be at least two feet above the new 100-year floodplain elevations.
If a property changes from low-risk to high-risk under new floodplain maps, property owners likely will be required to protect their building and its contents at a higher rate.
However, under a grandfather provision in FEMA’s flood insurance program, property owners can buy a policy before the new maps take effect to keep a lower rate.
The city is encouraging these owners to talk with their insurance agents before the new maps take effect Oct. 18.
“If the current structure complies with all current rules and regulations concerning floodplains, and if you purchased flood insurance based on the 1982 or current FEMA floodplain maps and that floodplain increases, the rates would be frozen at existing elevations if you buy before the new maps take effect,” Boyce explained.
The provision is allowed as long as the policy is in place and the policyholder does not allow it to lapse, he added.
The rates under the grandfather provision also can be transferred to new owners if the structure is sold, provided the policy did not lapse, Boyce explained.