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ELECTED officials in Columbus and Bartholomew County are finally taking a hard look at development in flood-prone areas.
Last month the Bartholomew County Commissioners gave final approval to an ordinance that placed new restrictions on any future development in such areas. That action followed a vote by the Columbus City Council on similar regulations.
Some would argue that the action is overdue, especially since warnings about this kind of development are decades old, and the loss of valuable flood plain has been seen as a major contributor to flooding in the county. They would also contend that it took the flood of 2008 and its hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to finally get some movement in this direction.
Regardless of the motivation, the restrictions in the new ordinance are common-sense approaches that should have been adopted much earlier. The new restrictions include:
County planners also believe the ordinance eases restrictions on some rebuilding in the flood plain. The rule would only apply to existing buildings that were constructed before the flood ordinances went into effect and were not elevated above flood level, City/County Planning Director Jeff Bergman said.
In the event those buildings were damaged, by flooding, fire or other accident, the previous city rules required the builder to elevate the structure before it can be rebuilt if only 40 percent of the building was damaged. The new ordinance matches federal requirements that the building must be elevated if 50 percent is damaged.
Given the effects of the flood of 2008, it would seem unlikely that anyone in their right mind would even think about building a nursing home, jail, hospital or day care center in a floodway. On the other hand, who would have dreamed before 2008 that Columbus Regional Hospital would have been shut down by a flood?
The commissioners and the City Council have taken steps in controlling this kind of development, but Bergman noted that development in these areas could be allowed with a variance from the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals and approval from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
It would be hoped that officials with those governmental bodies would have long memories.
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