The Ward County Planning Commission has approved recommending the new floodplain resolution at a public meeting held Thursday night in the Ex-Servicemen's Room at the Ward County Courthouse. Ultimately it will be up to the Ward County Commission on whether to approve the measure at a public hearing tentatively scheduled for their public meeting on Jan. 8.
The new recommendation, as described by county highway engineer Dana Larsen, will raise new housing and other developments three feet higher than the old memorandum recommends.
According to Larsen, in a June meeting the county Water Board's minimum recommendation was to raise the code by one foot, but the recommended resolution will go for three feet.
"In the county there are quite a few areas that are not protected, unlike some of the areas of Minot," Larsen said.
"We currently have a floodplain ordinance that's enacted that follows the FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Maps) elevations... In some of these areas it's kind of a big change, in some it isn't," Larsen explained. "All those homes will have to be built to an elevation above that water elevation proposed for a 100 year event. This change would, basically, adjust that hydraulic elevation of the water."
"Under the old system (homeowners) may have only had to maybe raise their home a foot, or maybe their development sat outside that 100 year area. Under the new adoption they would have to raise it about three feet more. So any existing homes that are there, this doesn't effect (them). It doesn't affect their flood insurance rate; that's a completely different system."
At roll-call, there was only one dissenting vote.
"What didn't I like about it? I think three feet was extreme, probably because I'm on the fringe area," planning commissioner David Kopps said of his dissenting vote.
"With my elevation (at his house) I'm about 80 feet above the river. I've got no problem where I'm living," Kopps said, but said that his concern is for properties in the fringes of Minot that may be affected by the rise.
"There's a lot of development. I just thought that... you're going to see people out here on the fringe areas that are going to apply for a variance for a lot of reasons; they might say, 'Hey, I've got to pay the owner, or we've got a friend and we're going to provide our own protection,'" Kopps said referencing that he had built protection with some friends around property of his in the fringe area.
In an after-meeting hypothetical, planning commissioner John Fjeldahl, who is also a county commissioner, and Larsen discussed ways in which such a variance might get approved. Larsen said that people may build a ring dike around their property which may keep them safe from flood waters but that such a homegrown solution would never be legally certified.
Fjeldahl did mention the possible halfway split between public and private money if a property owner were to have a certified engineer design the property's dike system. Regardless, a home or business applying for a variance would need to at least be building at an elevation higher than the base of a 100 year flood event.
The resolution maps and the text of the resolution are available at the Planning and Zoning office on the second floor of the Ward County Courthouse.
OTHER BUSINESS AT THE MEETING
- Two special permit applications were unanimously approved by the commission.
- The first special permit is for Orlien township. The prospective property owner, who is from California, is looking to build a property for C-2 zoning uses, which is defined as a highway commercial zone, in the township which is a rural zone. His buildings will include a truck stop, a hotel, and an apartment complex. The major discussion was over an "auto-renew" clause for the special permit. Zoning and Planning Administrator Amber Turnquest says that a five-year permit is typical but not mandatory. The applicant said he would rather have a permit with written restrictions he can follow to the letter that also includes an auto-renew feature so that if he goes against the restrictions he can expect to have to appear before the board, but if he follows the rules then all will be fine. Commissioner Fjeldahl expressed concern that an auto-renewing permit would effectively represent a zoning change and that the applicant granted the permit could turn around and sell the land, with the permit intact, to a new person. Turnquest reminded the commission that a special permit allows for 36 months to begin construction of the proposed project, but if the project is not proceeding then the permit is terminated. The applicant agreed to all terms.
- The second special permit was for a farmer in Hilton Township to be allowed to build a farming machinery store on the south end of his property. He also requests an allowance for up to four employees to live on the premises, if that turns out to be needed. Contingent on the condition that only employees are allowed to live there, and that he won't be renting it out, the application was passed.
- After lengthy discussion about times and days of the week that would work for both members of the planning commission and the public, and would allow for smooth operation between all of the other county boards and committees, the planning commission agreed to keep the same schedule for now. The committee holds public meetings every second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Ex-Servicemen's Room at the Ward County Courthouse.