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Can it be built there? Changes ahead for flood plain regulations

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Bartholomew County Commissioners gave initial approval to new flood plain regulations that limit what can be built in areas prone to flooding.

The board voted 3-0 Monday to accept the recommendation from the County Plan Commission and a study committee that looked at new regulations in the wake of the city’s 2008 flood.

Jeff Bergman, director of the city/county planning department, said the committee of about 20 members has worked on the recommendations for more than a year.

Recommended changes affect both the floodway, where floodwater travels most quickly and which is the most sensitive area, and the flood fringe, the wider area where floodwater collects and pools, Bergman said. Together, the floodway and flood fringe make up the flood plain.

Among the recommendations:

  • New development, with some exceptions, would be prohibited in the floodway. That would include new buildings, the placement of fill and any other obstructions to the flow of floodwater. Existing buildings would be allowed to expand and some other uses would be allowed, such as agricultural, marinas and nature preserves.
  • Flood-sensitive facilities such as nursing homes, correctional facilities, hospitals and day care centers would be prohibited in the flood plain. Bergman said the sensitive facilities are those in which it is not easy to evacuate people from the path of a flood.
  • Proposed facilities considered potentially harmful to water quality and public health would be required to seek special approval from local government before being built in the flood plain. Those include sewage treatment plants, gas stations or businesses with hazardous materials production or bulk storage.

The city and county should be proactive in updating flood plain maps and addressing errors.

Bergman said residents and businesses would be able to apply for variances if they felt they should be exempt from some requirements.

An audience member, Kenneth Burns of Windsor Place in Columbus, asked if the Indiana Department of Natural Resources had issued updated flood maps for the community. Bergman said those maps have yet to be finished.

The City Council will be asked to approve the regulations tonight, and the commissioners will consider their second and final approval in two weeks.

City Council up next

What: New Bartholomew County and Columbus flood plain regulations.

Monday: County Commissioners gave their first of two approvals of the regulations recommended by the city and county plan commission and a study committee.

Tonight: City Council will consider the first approval of the city version of the ordinance at its meeting at 6 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 123 Washington St.

Feb. 18: County Commissioners will consider their second and final approval of the ordinance at its meeting at 10 a.m., in the County Commissioners Court at Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building, 440 Third St.

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