Public hearing held to discuss new rules and regulations on flood plain management

SHERIDAN — As rains fell outside, turning into a wet, heavy snow that downed tree limbs and knocked out power around town, the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing Thursday to discuss new rules and regulations governing flood plain management.

Adopting the new rules, as well as new Flood Insurance Rate Maps, is required for the county to maintain eligibility in the National Flood Insurance program, County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger said.

Each incorporated area in Sheridan County, as well as the county itself, must pass an ordinance to adopt the new maps and regulations by Jan. 16, 2014, in order to maintain eligibility.

Sheridan, Dayton and Ranchester have all indicated they will adopt the maps and revised regulations. Clearmont does not participate in the National Flood Insurance program, and Sheridan County manages flood plain regulations for Big Horn, Story, Arvada and other unincorporated areas, Liesinger said.

Three people attended the Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing Thursday.

Board Chairman Bernie Bornong said two spoke about their concerns about the amount of public input in the mapping and regulation revision process. Both said they felt public input has been too limited.

Liesinger and the three commissioners present all felt that there have been plenty of opportunities for public input. A year ago in May, when the new maps were released, more than 100 people attended the public meeting to discuss them. There will be another public hearing at the Nov. 5 County Commission meeting.

“We all felt that the public input had been adequate,” Bornong said. “Bottom line, we did vote to recommend to County Commission that the proposed rules and regulations on flood plain management be adopted.”

Bornong said that with the recent catastrophic flooding along the Front Range in Colorado, he and the other commissioners believed it was a good idea to regulate development in the flood plains.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, the county held a county-wide open house at the Fairgrounds to allow residents to examine the new maps and ask questions about the new regulations.

Approximately 25 people attended, Liesinger said. Most wanted to know what had changed from the old to new regulations.

Liesinger said the biggest change in the flood plain regulations was that the county will now require the minimum building elevation to be one foot above the base flood elevation, which is consistent with regulations in the city of Sheridan. He said all other changes were minimal.

A flood study completed by the Army Corps of Engineers approximately six years ago enabled base flood elevations to be included on the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps along 66 miles of Big Goose, Little Goose, Goose and Soldier creeks.

Liesinger said that with the more detailed mapping information, more city and county residents have actually been removed from flood plain status, which could lower their insurance rates.

People should get in touch with their insurance providers now to discuss changes to insurance rates.

Erin May, the National Flood Insurance Program Bureau and Statistical Agent Regional Manager based out of Denver, was present at the open house Tuesday. She noted that only 10 percent of the 18,000 homes damaged by the flooding in Colorado had flood insurance.

Sheridan County’s old flood plain regulations were developed in 1989. The county originally wanted to revise the old regulations but decided that it would be a good chance to fully update them and make them more clear for county staff and applicants since there have been some challenges with administering the old regulations, Liesinger said.

“It’s a benefit to people who live in the flood plain. I will be recommending the council adopt them,” Ranchester Town Engineer Chris Johnson said after attending a meeting held for town and city officials before the open house.

Johnson said Ranchester Town Council will begin considering the new regulations and maps at its next meeting Oct. 15 or in November. Dayton Mayor Bob Wood agreed: “Dayton will participate. It’s pretty important.” Dayton Town Clerk Linda Lofgren said the Dayton Planning Committee will review Dayton’s new flood plain ordinance at its meeting Oct. 30. Dayton is in the process of updating its regulations to match what the state of Wyoming uses as its minimum standards. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made adoption of new Flood Insurance Rate Maps and new regulations that tie the maps to the regulations a nationwide requirement, Liesinger said.

• For more information about the Flood Insurance Rate Maps and the new flood plain regulations, call Sheridan County Public Works at 674-2920.

 

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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