City Commission discusses housing, development in floodplains

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City commissioners met to discuss the changes in the FEMA floodplain standards and how these changes may affect Manhattan homeowners and developers Tuesday night. City planner Chad Bunger presented the changes to the commission.

Under the new floodplain standards, some homes and new developments will have to be raised above the floodplain. Bunger said the difference between paying an insurance rate of $500 per year when living in a flood zone versus the cost of raising the home evens out over a 30-year period for new construction.

Manhattan is also considering development in the areas adjacent to the flood zones, termed Future Condition zones. FEMA will not require flood insurance for these areas. However, Bunger advised looking carefully at these areas because if the discussed adjustments aren’t made, they may become flood zones as well.

“Elevations change and have gotten deeper,” Bunger said.

Bunger provided several housing plans that remove the structure of the home from the floodplain without building up the actual ground. Many of these plans were taken from other parts of the country, including examples from seaside areas of South Carolina.

Commissioners considered making it a requirement that developers be responsible for raising new development out of the floodplain before selling to individual buyers.

“It’s important that we balance the interests of developers with protecting the businesses and homes that are already here,” Commissioner Wynn Butler said.

Commissioners also stressed the necessity of communicating the importance of the Future Condition zones. They debated about whether it was better to communicate the risks and allow homeowners to build if they wish or to ban building in the flood zones entirely.

“It needs to be worded to kind of negate that perception that if I buy this house here, all of a sudden, I’m in a floodplain,” Rich Jankovich, city commissioner, said. “What we’re saying is in this area it’s going to get additional scrutiny, maybe additional building codes, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into being a flood zone.”

Speaking as an appraiser, former Manhattan mayor Loren Pepperd commented on the issue, saying that even though flood insurance isn’t required in Future Condition zones, he would strongly recommend it and mark it in the appraisal paperwork. He also recommended that filling ground above the floodplain be the work of developers before ground is sold individually.

“We want to try to control future conditions instead of letting them control us,” Butler said. Butler was appointed to assist with the accounting of buildings.

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