Planning Commission initiates first step in updated floodplain amendments


Local update to flood plain maps prompted by FEMA, Lane County projects

Feb. 15, 2020 — The Florence Planning Commission met Tuesday evening with a short list of action items on the evening’s agenda for commissioners to consider.

In 2019, the changes to the Florence Residential Building Code took the better part of a year to modify, update and eventually adopt, and the commission worked for many hours to craft a new code that would be less difficult to maneuver for developers and property owners.

The members of the commission can now turn their attention to other areas of importance in the areas of planning and development.

One of the ongoing projects City Planner Wendy FarleyCampbell has been working on, in addition to the extensive residential code modifications, is an update to the flood plain map for Florence.

The expected changes to the actual map of Florence may impact a number of community members as it is possible a property may have been determined to be at greater, or lesser, risk of flooding.

The local update of Florence’s flood plain maps was prompted by larger scale Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Lane County projects to update all of the flood plain maps for this area. This was done using data and information gathered from satellites to plot potential flood locations with much greater accuracy.

According to Lane County, there are nearly 140,000 acres of land in the county floodplain. This is equivalent to 200 square miles of potentially impacted land. Over 11,000 individual property parcels are partially or entirely located within this floodplain area.

In fact, Lane County has more river miles of floodplain than any other county in the state. Ongoing development along these rivers continues to displace natural areas that have historically functioned to store flood waters. These changes increase instances of local flooding dramatically.

In order to meet approaching FEMA deadlines for submission of floodplain updates, FarleyCampbell requested the commission approve PC 20 01 IN 01, “New National Flood Insurance Program FIS/FIRM Amendments Initiation.”

These updates are primarily designed to allow those living in flood-prone areas to obtain flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program at a reasonable cost, according to FarleyCampbell.

FEMA and Lane County have both made public presentations in Florence in recent months to review the process as it applies to the county and federal maps. In addition, they looked at how those changes will be incorporated into new maps to be used by the insurance industry to evaluate the risks involved in insuring Florence landowners.

The City of Florence has agreed to update its floodplain maps to reflect the new information available from the vastly improved data gathering collection systems currently available.

Most notably, the use of light detection and ranging software (LIDAR) has made the plotting of all types of boundary and topographical information easy and accurate. The increased detail provided by these images will become the foundation of all future decisions made by insurers regarding insurance availability and pricing.

FarleyCampbell reviewed the process undertaken by the city, and her department, to incorporate changes suggested by FEMA and Lane County into the final version of the city’s new flood maps.

She then provided information that detailed the changes that FEMA and city staff had determined were necessary to complete the new floodplain maps. These were primarily changes in the language that described areas in the Florence floodplain, with few changes to the actual locations likely to be affected by the updated maps.

“There were very few additional comp plan changes that needed to be made, there were maybe two definitions that are included, and the table of contents needed minor changes as well,” FarleyCampbell said.

At all of the meetings held by city, county and federal representatives to update the local community, first on the need for the update and second on its results, representatives recommended that individual property owners check on their particular property to see what changes, if any, they should expect in insurance coverage.

“On March 4, we will send out notices to properties which be financially impacted, possibly, by these changes,” FarleyCampbell said. “With the updated maps and the new studies we also got GIS data which will help us identify those people. … This is new technology for us, and it should be pretty helpful.”

The commissioners took a few minutes after FarleyCampbell’s request to review the packets provided, which contained the updated language in the city’s floodplain plan.

They then voted unanimously to adopt the proposal.

The Planning Commission meeting also included housekeeping items that were taken care of, plus a postponement of the selection of officers for the commission until Chairman John Murphey, who was not in attendance, could be present.

All of the materials presented to the Planning Commission detailing the changes to the floodplain maps and the relevant language in city code are available for public viewing at ci.florence.or.us.

The next City of Florence Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to be a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 5:30 p.m. at Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101. Two more public meetings regarding the floodplain amendments will be held March 24 and April 20.

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