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Working with floodplain commission??

Posts: 74
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Anyone had any experience working with a floodplain commission on building on their homestead?

Our land came with a house. An old house that needs work. And a Zone A floodplain from a creek. I've read through the rules for building in a floodplain. They are a bunch of mumbo jumbo meant for people who live on the coast or in urban areas where they might impact other people or be devastated by a hurricane. They aren't meant for my little rural acreage where the nearest neighbors are on a hill a long way away (not far enough because I can still see them but anyway ...).

The house is as far from the creek on the property as it can be and still be on the property. It was built way before there were any floodplains or FEMA management rules, etc ... however, from all of our inspections there is no evidence of water damage or flood marking of any kind. There are ways around working with the flood commission ie. do the work extremely slowly so that none of the projects exceeds the value indicators or apply for a hardship permit. But I don't want to apply for a permit of any kind. I don't want anyone telling me what I can or can't build or how I must renovate my property.

I'm an architect so I know what I'm doing and I would be a fool to build something that would just wash away in a flood so I don't have any fear that my plans would be denied but just the idea that someone must tell me it's OK to renovate a house in the middle of blinking nowhere annoys me to no end.

However, I don't want to piss them off and have to fight for everything from now until eternity. If I go the permit route, I have to hire a surveyor to come out and do elevation surveys and then pay another architect to stamp the documents that says all of my designs meet code standards. The architect part isn't a big deal because I have many friends in the field who are more than willing to help out. But having another surveyor come out is just spending money to make the "man" happy. It doesn't help me in the least. And after they issue the permit I don't know if they come back out to do inspections and such. If I wanted that I'd have stayed in town.

So how would you proceed on this?
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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Here's how I would proceed:

Get every bit of information you can about the flood plane.  Maps.  Definitions.  Codes, etc.  You might not even be in a flood plane.  

See what all the info you gathered says.  DO NOT take anyone's "word" for it.  if it isn't in writing, it doesn't count.
Officials love to "quote codes' which often, they misquote, don't understand, or the code doesn't say what they claim it says.

YOU have to do the homework.  Often times, that means going to the very officials who may misrepresent information, either intentionally, or accidentally.  Get as much info as you can, and tell them you need COPIES of the codes that apply.

THEN you can see what they are asking for.

As for the "well, I don't see any signs of a flood", those are famous last words... the fact is, floods are getting worse, and more severe, and areas that NEVER flooded before are starting to have flood issues... hence why flood plains are being revised and remapped.  The "I don't see any signs of a flood" isn't what I'd be using as a gauge to the level of danger.  

I've seen a creek that trickled along at a depth of 2-3 inches and about a foot wide turn into a raging torrent moving at over 40MPH, 20 feet deep, and 100 plus feet wide.  

IF it was me, and I was even NEAR an area that MIGHT, MAYBE, COULD flood, I'd put my house on stilts so in the worst, 100year major storm, it wouldn't get wet.  but that's me.  

Good luck!
Posts: 3
Location: Alberta
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Currently working on permitting for a property in a Canadian flood zone, and also been on the city side in the past so lotssof experience......

First toughhlove; You are ignoring two huge impacts: the safety of those who will have to rescue you if it floods and b.  The cost of bailouts by the government for those hit by flooding.  Both are expensive and the rest of the taxpayers don't want to be paying for your refusal to take appropriate measures.

But,  appropriate is a very broad term so as an architect what can you do to mitigate the risk? Be creative!

Knowing the 100 and 200 year flood levels is the basis for any discussion.   From there plan your response.   What would be impacted,  is there an escape route,  are services above the flood level? As an architect you are legally responsible for areas such as egrrss in a fire,  so it surprises me that you want to throw your professional standards out if the window.

Personally,  we are formulating a plan that includes raising some buildings and leaving others to flood but with electrical up high.   Our scheme doesn't necessarily meet the bylaw as written,  but we will argue that it will be safe with minimal risk.   But we need the data to back those arguments up for the variance if needed.

I may sound harsh,  but the reality is that floods,  even near streams,  can and do kill people.   I've watched several floods in tbe past and seen the devastation.   Prove to yourself the risk,  and if there is none sleep soundly in your new extension.   Good luck!
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