FEMA Cracking Down On Flood Plain Policies in Ohio County

Ohio County must submit community action plan by May 13

Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton, left, and Administrator Greg Stewart share a lighter moment prior to the start of a discussion about the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its call for more enforcement of flood plain improvements and construction in the county.

WHEELING — In Ohio County, there’s no zoning or permitting required of new construction or property improvements that might take place within a flood plain, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency wants these on record.

Administrator Greg Stewart informed county officials the county has received a letter from FEMA, asking the county to submit a community action plan pertaining to flood plain compliance by May 13.

Failure to comply with FEMA requirements could result in Ohio County losing its participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, he explained.

Following floods in West Virginia in late 2004, FEMA asked all counties in the state to approve a resolution the agency provided setting forth policies for the program.Now FEMA is taking the next step in pushing Ohio County toward active enforcement, Stewart said.

There are at least nine properties in the county that aren’t in compliance, and the county must decide how to proceed, according to Stewart.

“One of the houses has new vinyl siding and a roof, and we’re supposed to take action if it is in a flood plain,” he said.

“My concern is we don’t have county zoning for a reason. People who live out in the country don’t want to be subject to county zoning. We don’t have building inspections in the county. We have little to no way of knowing when people make improvements to their property.”

The Ohio County Assessor’s Office has a form for the purpose, but it serves as just a notification of plans for property changes to be filed by the property owner.

“We don’t get many of those — if any. We tell all new folks we talk to through addressing we’ll even email it to you. You need to fill this one page form out. There’s no fee or approval process. But we need to know what you’re doing up there.

“If we don’t move forward with this, they will eventually withdraw us from the National Flood Insurance Program, and this could mean somebody out in the county wanting to get a mortgage and would need flood insurance wouldn’t be able to get it. I just think it’s a tough situation. It’s not just us — it’s all counties. Really to me, this is big brother picking on little brother as far as enforcing requirements.”

Commission President Tim McCormick said FEMA’s concerns should center of whether the property owner with a home located in a flood plain has requested FEMA reimbursement funds for flood damage, and if they have received any of the the funds.

“If they haven’t, then I don’t understand FEMA’s problem,” McCormick said. “If I want to put a new roof and siding on my house, I have every right to do it. That’s my personal property — whether I live in a flood plain or not. Should there be damage done to the new additions (due to flooding), I wouldn’t expect FEMA to pay for that.”

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