Floodplain complications getting worse with real property transfers

Who has experienced difficulty in selling or buying a house in the last couple of years because of a problem with a Floodplain issue? Plenty… and it’s only going to get worse.

Floodplain regulations apply to the development of land, disturbance of the natural ground, filling, removing earth, the installation of a driveway and certainly the construction of any type of building, no matter how big or small.

All may be subject to the regulatory requirements of the local Floodplain laws.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] mandated that all communities adopt floodplain development regulations many years ago, back in the early 1980’s.

Along with the regulatory text required, Floodplain maps were provided by FEMA to all communities.

The Town of Webb’s maps consist of 29 pages each being 8.5 X 17 inches, black and white.

The data used for the maps was collected in the 1970’s and technology then was not nearly as good as it is today.

If interested, they are available on-line through FEMA.

However, be prepared, they are of poor quality and in a scale extremely hard to read, with very little detail.

Why such poor maps?

The town of Webb is the largest town, geographically, in New York State. Consisting of over 480 square miles, that is a huge area.

Take into consideration the number of residents in the town, around 1,700 people, the cost of providing high quality useful mapping per residence is enormous.

Especially when compared to densely populated areas in other cities, counties, towns or villages.

The maps are what they are. They are the only maps available; not only to this office, but to any agency or financial institution that uses them.

Financial institution, you ask? Back up to the first sentence in the article.

Every mortgage or re-finance, the bank will have someone, either in house or otherwise, look at the flood maps and determine if the property appears to be in the “Designated 100 year Flood Zone.”

These do not show where the structures or land development may be, nor do they even show where property lines are, but usually you can see if the property is in, or close, to a flood zone.

And if the property appears close to that 100 year flood area, the bank will require flood insurance.

And FEMA underwrites the insurance policies. This is how FEMA pays for the cost of program and where they get the money to pay out claims.

We are all familiar with the national disasters of Katrina and Sandy. Those were catastrophic events having huge impacts on people’s lives, businesses and communities in so many unimaginable ways.

The impact on FEMA, and their resources, is equally unimaginable.

Could the loses have been less if floodplain development regulations were strictly enforced? …Probably.

Does every municipality across the country strictly enforce the regulations? Of course not. Some do, some do not.

But rest assured, the pressure is on to do a better job in administration in all municipalities; even right here, in the Town of Webb.

So, what does all this mean for the Town of Webb?

Starting immediately, part of the plan review for any type of work, new homes, additions and renovations of existing buildings, even breakwalls and sheds, a determination will have to be made as to floodplain.

Depending on where the property is will depend on how easy this is. Keep in mind that along any lake, river, pond or other water body there is always a floodplain.

Again, depending on the nature of the shoreline, will depend where the actual 100 year flood plain boundary is relative to where the structure is.

The best way to determine where the actual flood boundary line is will be to have it mapped out on a surveyor’s map.

Only a licensed land surveyor’s or a professional engineer’s map will be acceptable.

Two weeks ago, there was a copy of the Local Floodplain Regulations printed along with a notice of public hearing for the same, in The Weekly Adirondack.

This is not a new law, just a revision of the existing. However, it is part of the revived energy to administer what is already in place better.

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