Flood Map Changes to Impact South Side Economic Development | Government

Many South Side residents did not have flood insurance when Contrary Creek overflowed. This may change with the flood maps offered by FEMA.

Ron and Elaine Baker were among the many households without insurance when the Contrary Creek flood destroyed their home. But they have it now.

“After going through what we went through, I really wanted flood insurance,” Ron told News-Press NOW after the flood. “I would recommend anyone in this area who was affected by this flood last year to get flood insurance.”

Soon flood insurance may be a requirement for some South Side residents. FEMA’s proposed maps, which are subject to a 90-day appeal process, would increase the zoning designation near Contrary Creek.

Another proposed change is the removal of the diversion canals along Frederick and St. Joseph Avenues, allowing for increased economic development. With the current floodway designation, any new building must prove that it will not alter the water level during heavy rain.

“An engineer would have to prove that this new development wouldn’t raise the base flood level by zero, which is basically impossible to do,” said city building official Jim Haake.

Unlike the south side, where floodplains have increased, major corridors and downtown have reduced their floodplain designations.

Todd Coffman owns a building at 817 Francis St. According to current maps, it’s considered Zone A, which means he must have flood insurance, an expense of about $2,000 each year.

“When we started the buying process, it kind of caught us off guard,” Coffman said. “Even after seeing the cards, it still seemed a bit absurd. You would have some standing water during the worst rains at the intersection there, but nothing has ever come so close to backing up the 10+ feet to get to our building.

The maps offered by FEMA change the zone to Zone B, which does not require flood insurance. This is important to Coffman because not only did he have to have flood insurance in Zone A, but the building was also ineligible for historic and frontage grants due to designation.

During this 90-day process, residents can appeal any proposed changes, but only with supporting science. After the appeals process, which ends May 18, FEMA will have about two months to review the maps one last time before the city council has six months to adopt them. The final maps probably won’t go into effect until early next year.

“Buchanan County and St. Joe was one of the last communities still on paper maps,” Haake said. “Everyone is digital, so that will make a big difference.”

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