Oregon City Council on Monday will consider a resolution to amend the zoning code pertaining to flood plain regulations.
“This is an issue that the city’s dealt with a number of times over the years when the Army Corps of Engineers makes changes,” City Administrator Mike Beazley said at a committee of the whole meeting last Monday. “The choice is to either allow our residents to take advantage of the federal flood insurance or not. There is a component to this in that council can choose whether or not, as most cities do, to require an additional foot or two of flexibility.”
The change in the flood plain regulations has to do with “freeboard,” a factor of safety usually expressed in feet above a flood level for the purposes of floodplain management. Freeboard tends to compensate for many unknown factors that could contribute to flood heights greater than the height calculated for a selected size flood and floodway conditions, such as wave action, obstructed bridge openings, debris and ice jams, and the hydrologic effect of urbanization in a watershed.
“We’re only contemplating one foot freeboard, which is above base flood elevation,” said James Gilmore, the commissioner of Building and Zoning. “That’s the only difference than what we currently have.”
Councilman Sandy Bihn asked if the change would affect only new construction.
“Any development in the floodplain is governed by the floodplain regulations, existing homes, too,” said Gilmore.
“Does this affect floodplain insurance?” Bihn asked Gilmore.
“The floodplain regulations are for the federal floodplain insurance. The freeboard would affect new homebuilding, basically, and substantial improvement to existing homes,” said Gilmore.
“So existing homes wouldn’t have to do anything, this is only for a new or substantially improved buildings in the floodplain here?” asked Bihn.
“Correct,” said Gilmore, ‘substantial improvements to existing homes and to new homes.”
Bihn asked that the administration clarify for homeowners how the proposed change might affect their properties.
“Maybe write up a paragraph or two as to what it is so we can hand it out to people so we know we’re saying the right thing. I’m sure people living in the area who have floodplain insurance, or who have property in the floodplain, might be interested in this as well as builders,” said Bihn.
Councilman Dennis Walendzak, chairman of the Drainage, Roads, Buildings, and Lands Committee, has called a meeting for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 9, in the council conference room, 5330 Seaman Road, to discuss the matter further. The meeting is open to the public.
Councilman Jerry Peach asked Gilmore if council had acted on legislation in 2000 that incorporated the one foot freeboard.
“You’re correct in the fact that it was in 2000, but we were at base flood elevation at that time, there was no safety factor built in,” said Gilmore. “The surrounding communities, including Jerusalem Township, have a one foot freeboard or safety factor built in. It’s a good idea, I think it’s prudent. And I can explain it further at the committee meeting.”
“Just as a point of clarity, the people who are already affected by floodplain insurance and regulations would be looking at essentially identical legislation,” said Peach, “except for the one foot freeboard modification.”
“That’s correct,” said Gilmore.
Walendzak said the committee meeting would give someone from the building or insurance industries a chance to find out how the change would affect them.
“I think it’s entirely appropriate to meet on this, since it is a modification that the federal government would otherwise require,” said Peach.
There is a deadline by which council needs to pass the legislation, said Peach.
After council acts, the matter will be forwarded to the Plan Commission.