Highland News Leader

Highland to have meeting on FEMA flood maps

Highland city officials will have a public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28 to discuss additions that have been made by Federal Emergency Management Agency to its working flood plain maps for the area.

The meeting is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Highland City Hall, 1115 Broadway, and will be similar to a hearing last August.

FEMA frequently reassesses areas and their potential for flooding, and as part of its Map Modernization Program, the agency is currently sizing up Highland. Right now, the area around Highland is in the “drafting stage,” of the process where old paper maps are converted into a digital form and are being updated to take into account changes in topography, as well as new developments.

The issue city officials have with the new draft maps are that they would greatly expand areas of the city considered to be at high risk for flooding, which could have detrimental impacts to the city’s future.

A change in flood risk status would mean that homeowners and businesses with mortgages would be required to buy flood insurance at substantially increased rates, which may not be affordable for many.

Any new structure built within what would be deemed as a Special Flood Hazard Area would also be subject to new building standards, including elevation requirements and construction limits, which would add significant cost and likely deter future development.

The meeting on Tuesday will cover the newly proposed areas to the flood plain. While the city has sent out letters to the parties that it believes would be impacted by the new maps, if they were made official by the federal government. However, Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck said that city officials are encouraging everyone to attend the meeting.

“I really want them to know if they are going to be impacted or not,” Peck said. “We have to make up for FEMA’s lack of transparency is the way that I see it.”

The meeting will also provide a brief overview of the next steps in the program. After FEMA completes the drafting phase of its map operations, a preliminary map will be made, which starts the count ticking toward finalization. Once the maps are officially adopted by FEMA, it will be the final word on areas considered to be within flood risk.

Peck said that city staff will have have maps out to show the area of the proposed floodplain. They will also be able to pull up the owner’s property to show them whether or not they reside in the affected areas.

“We’re happy to answer questions for anyone who comes,” Peck said.

The city is also asking for email addresses from people who attend the meeting, so affected parties can be informed as quickly as possible during the next planning stages.