Archived Story

Residents concerned about new flood map

Published 10:40am Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Austin City Council approved a new floodplain zoning map and accompanying ordinance Monday night amid concerns and criticism from area residents.

Forty-four parcels within Austin, including 12 to 14 homes, were added to the floodplain, according to Community Development Director Craig Hoium. Other properties were removed from the flood plain but Hoium didn’t have an exact count.

The changes come as part of electronic elevation mapping by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the 2007 floods in southeast Minnesota. State legislators funded the study in order to update Minnesota’s land and flood elevations.

About 50 counties, including Mower, must update their flood plain zoning maps over the next few years.

The updated map means flood insurance changes for residents living near the Cedar River and Turtle Creek. Some residents will see their flood insurance rates rise or fall based on the new map, while others will either start or stop paying for flood insurance. The city’s last flood plain map was created in 1988.

More than 30 residents attended the meeting Monday, with several expressing concerns the city didn’t do enough to warn residents of the upcoming changes.

Public Works Director Steven Lang said a public meeting about the map was held in fall 2011, and city officials have worked with residents and state officials since then to work on the map.

Still, some residents were concerned the map wasn’t accurate and would cause properties to lose its value.

“I can’t sell my home now because it’s in a flood zone,” resident Jeff Johnson said. Johnson bought his home in Austin about a year ago.

Homeowner Charlie Crosby was concerned 12 properties, including his home, in the 2nd Street Northeast neighborhood near the Hormel Corporate North office was added to the flood plain though they hadn’t been affected by flooding over the past few years. Yet Crosby was more concerned with his home’s tax value.

“Will the taxes on my home be calculated from this year or last year?” he asked the council. City officials didn’t have an answer for Crosby.

Both Hoium and Lang said the FEMA maps were completed using data from 2008 and 2009, before the city’s flood mitigation efforts were completed. Now that council members have approved the new map, city officials will verify the new elevation records and submit adjustments to the DNR. Lang also said once flood mitigation projects are completed, residents can apply for flood plain exemption as long as their property meets FEMA standards, which could take place about five years from now.

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