Floodplain issues will be discussed at Shady Cove forum

SHADY COVE — Residents wondering how the city's recent floodplain troubles affect them may find answers at an open house scheduled for Tuesday.

"The intention is to provide a forum for residents of Shady Cove, and other interested parties, to come and ask their questions about floodplain issues," said Becca Croft, who is organizing the city-sponsored event.

"It's not just limited to the people who have known violations," she said. "It's for everybody, especially the people who live in the floodplain who want to know how this situation affects them, and whether or not they have potential violations that could be taken care of before a future inspection."

Croft is a floodplain manager with Public Works Management (PWM), a private company the city hired in December to help develop a plan that would bring violating property owners into compliance with federal floodplain regulations.

"The open house is part of our entire program of working with all the different stakeholders involved in floodplain issues and ensuring that our community is safe and the violations are corrected," said City Administrator Elise Smurzynski.

"Part of that program is public involvement and education, and particularly providing a place where people can get materials and information about the benefits of coming into compliance and how it can make your property more valuable."

Smurzynski said open-house invitations have been sent to 203 residents who live in the floodplain.

An additional 100 e-mails have been sent to other individuals, businesses and organizations interested in floodplain development issues.

She said the open house is large enough to require two buildings.

"We'll use the Playhouse for video presentations and information from the Department of Land Conservation and Development," said Smurzynski, "They'll cover FEMA regulations, disaster recovery and all kinds of neat and important things.

"In the Grange Hall will be displays and representatives to answer questions," she said. "The city has invited FEMA representatives, building and construction suppliers, contractors, engineers and real estate agents and brokers. In addition we'll have insurance agents who can answer questions about the National Flood Insurance Program.

The city's troubles began after a 2001 Federal Emergency Management Agency inspection identified 28 violating properties. Because 17 of those properties were still in violation at the end of last year, FEMA placed the city on probation Nov. 2.

The most serious violations involve homeowner improvements made below the base flood elevation, which includes basements converted into living spaces. Federal guidelines say those improvements could break away during a flood and become a safety hazard to homes downstream.

If the violations are not corrected, the city faces potential FEMA suspension. Probation adds a $50 surcharge to flood insurance policies. Suspension means no flood insurance would be available to residents.

Croft said that while PWM and the city are working on the current violations, they also are trying to avoid future problems.

"We're working on a checklist, a self audit that a homeowner could take home and look around their house to see if they have potential problems," said Croft. "We're trying to find ways where we can help people proactively and not just come after them when violations are pointed out in an inspection."

Croft said she believes the open house will allow people to get the information they need in a more relaxed atmosphere.

"It won't be a formal meeting and there won't be a formal presentation," she said. "We know there are a lot of questions out there. People are scared and are afraid that someone's going to come after them. They don't even know who to ask, or what's possible and some people don't even know what to ask.

"We can make some good come from this," she said. "It's not just about beating people up and making them a victim. We want people to feel comfortable asking questions and getting the answers they need."

The floodplain open house will run from 4-7 p.m. at the Playhouse, 125 Chaparral Dr., and the Grange Hall, 145 Chaparral Dr.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com

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