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Officials set limits for developing high-water areas

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Bartholomew County Commissioners gave their second and final approval Monday to new ordinances restricting development in flood-prone areas.

The Columbus City Council approved the city version of the ordinance Feb. 19.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the ordinance at their meeting Monday.

The new ordinance adds three restrictions on development in flood-prone areas, said Jeff Bergman, the city/county planning director. The ordinance:

Prohibits new development in the floodway, which is the area where floodwater travels most quickly and is the most sensitive area.

Prohibits building flood-sensitive facilities such as nursing homes, correctional facilities, hospitals and day care centers in the flood fringe, the larger area where floodwater collects and pools.

Limits new facilities considered potentially harmful to water quality and public health before being built in the flood plain. Those developments would be required to seek special approval from local government.

Bergman said the ordinance also 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, 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.

Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz questioned whether the ordinance’s restrictions on any new building in the floodway would include development on the north side of Jonathan Moore Pike. Kleinhenz said local economic development efforts have concentrated on that area, stretching from Interstate 65 to East Fork White River.

Bergman said that area would fall under the restrictions because most of that area is in the Driftwood River floodway. The only exception is a small portion at the south side of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center property, Bergman said.

Although development generally would be prohibited, Bergman said it could be allowed with a variance from the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals and approval of Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

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