A small, family-owned company that attempted to develop a small piece of property for future use is battling bureaucratic red tape in their efforts to complete the project.
Windamar Inc. is doing fill work on property near the intersection of Finks Run Road and U.S. Route 33. The problem is that maps done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency back during the Reagan adminstration indicate the property is in a flood zone, a contention Windamar disputes.
Chuck Marks, the vice president of the company, said the work being done "will not increase the flood height 1 inch, probably zero." The company was seeking a waiver to the county's floodplain ordinance, arguing that the antiquated maps do not show the construction and other work that has taken place in the area.
County Commissioner Donnie Tenney, however, said the county has to follow FEMA guidelines so that residents can obtain flood insurance. Failing to do so, he said, could jeopardize that ability.
"The government needs to come in and fix those maps," he said. "But FEMA has us in the same place it has you. A number of people have had to pay for surveys just to prove to FEMA they are not in a floodplain. FEMA won't do it, and these people have mortgages."
Windamar has completed the necessary hydrology and other technical studies needed before submitting a letter indicating it wants FEMA to amend the floodplain maps.
But the company must send that letter to the federal agency before continuing the fill work.
"If we were doing anything remotely dangerous to the stream or if we were near town, I would understand this," Marks said. "There are no structures for three- quarters of a mile. The area we are filling is far away from the creek, far away from the flood zone."
The county's mapping coordinator and floodplain supervisor, Terri Jo Bennett, said even though Windamar has no immediate plans of building on the site, a structure could be placed there one day.
To do that, the potential developer would have to prove the building was not in the floodplain.
"I have to look at what could go along the four-lane (Corridor H)," she said. "It's a process you have to go through."
County Administrator Willie Parker said he understood the frustration of having to cut through so much red tape, but added the county commission's hands are tied in the matter.
"I'm not saying it makes logical sense to the common person," he said. "But that's the hand FEMA has dealt us. It's not a fun process for anyone involved."
Contact John Wickline by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.