PARKERSBURG - Proposed changes in Wood County's floodplain ordinance will be forwarded to the county commission for public hearing.
Wood County Planning Commission approved the changes during its meeting Wednesday night.
Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said the county commission is required to have two readings of the proposed changes, one of those readings must be a public hearing. County Administrator Marty Seufer said no date has been set yet for the hearing before the commission. County officials said it would probably be a month or so before a hearing is held.
Copies of the proposed changes in the floodplain ordinance are available to the public in the building permit office, room 308 of the Wood County Courthouse, county administrator's office on the second floor of the courthouse, or from Hupp at the 911 Center, 911 Core Road during regular business hours, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"After the second reading the changes would be finalized. Most of the changes are just to update our ordinance to comply with changes in state law. Our ordinance hasn't been changed since 2007," Hupp said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency made changes earlier in the county floodplain maps, the period for appeal on those changes expired in February. Hupp said some individuals did review the maps during that process but the only appeal was filed by him.
"There were some overlays on the maps that didn't line up and the quality of the preliminary paper maps wasn't very good in some cases making them difficult to read. They said we would receive better qualify copies," Hupp said.
"Changes in the ordinance include some definitions and from now on we have to ask the permit applicant, if they build a new home and it is elevated, they have to sign an agreement that they will not convert the lower level to living space. It can be used as a garage or storage, but not as living space. That's always been the case, but now they have to sign an agreement to that effect," Hupp said.
The proposed new ordinance calls this a "non-conversion agreement" and it would be required on all flood-proofed structures and any elevated structures. It would generally apply to "enclosed areas below base flood elevation that are five feet high or more." The applicant also has to notify prospective buyers of the existence of the non-conversion agreement.
Violations of the ordinance are punishable by a fine of $50-$500 plus the cost of prosecution. For failure to pay the fine, the offender would be subject to a potential 10 day sentence.
Hupp noted the flood insurance for the structure would also be affected by non-compliance.
The new ordinance also has some new regulations relating to manufactured homes.
Once the finalized ordinance is enacted it would become effective Nov. 6, according to FEMA.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding which include requirements for building permits and building elevations for structures within the floodplain areas.
Wood County joined the program in 1977. Violations of floodplain regulations and building permit requirements can result in probation or suspension from the federal flood insurance program, affecting federally subsidized flood insurance policies and future county flood claims through FEMA.
If the county is found to be in violation of flood insurance program regulations, it can be placed on probation or removed from the program, making federally subsidized flood insurance unavailable.