Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — Washington County supervisors waived the third reading of a reworked flood plain ordinance last week, which then passed with a unanimous vote. The move comes after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources requested the changes to bring county code up to date.
Supervisor Marcus Fedler has been a harsh critic of the changes, saying they were too open to interpretation, among other things.
“You run through some of these regs, and some of the statements are ‘increased substantially,’ or ‘excessive increases,’ I don’t even know what those things mean,” he said at the ordinance’s first reading on June 21. “It puts you in direct opposition to a land owner … it all goes back to the fact that the federal government is the only one that provides flood insurance. I find it to be overly restrictive almost everywhere I read, and it’s somewhat arbitrary.”
Fedler said the restrictions would hinder growth in the county.
“All of this, from what I see, is basically stemming development,” he said. “I grew up in Fort Madison in 1993 when the flood came through, I know exactly what floodwaters can do. It’s not that I don’t find it to be important, what I find it to be is arbitrary, expensive, and difficult at the very least, in most cases, to enforce … If (builders) wanted to take that risk on their own, there’s no alternative insurance programs because the national government is the only one that provides it.”
Iowa DNR National Flood Insurance Program Specialist Jason Conn, speaking at the same meeting, said the ordinance change was important to keep county residents eligible for flood insurance.
“The National Flood Insurance Program … is a voluntary program that a community decides to join if it is in their best interests to do so,” he said. “When a community joins a flood insurance program, they’re under an agreement to administer a flood plain ordinance … allowing flood insurance to be sold to any property owners in the community.”
Conn said the ordinance would only be enforced in the 100-year flood plain, despite the new ordinance spelling out definitions for a 500-year flood plain.
“Yes, we are requiring the county to adopt regulations,” he said. “But those regulations are only enforced within the FEMA map 100-year flood plain.”
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said he disagreed with the state’s framing.
“It was generous of Mr. Conn to say it’s a voluntary program,” he said. “If we don’t belong to it, we’re cut out of all sorts of FEMA things and our residents are cut out of all sorts of protections.”
Supervisors said they had little choice in the matter, however, and approved the ordinance changes after a second reading this week. Fedler said he voted to approve “with reservations.”
“I wish there was a way that we could just opt out of it, but I don’t see a way to do that, unfortunately,” he said.