Two Union County landowners spoke at the public hearing for the proposed flood plain management ordinance during the Union County Board of Supervisors regular meeting Monday.
Duane Woodstock and Dennis Richie voiced concerns that the proposed ordinance would delay their ability to repair existing water gap fencing or building a simple crossing from one field to another by requiring a permit that might take months to receive from the Department of Natural Resources. The landowner would then either face fines and possible losses by not securing their livestock or the $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail for building without a permit.
Richie cited the provision in the ordinance that called for a permit if the work involved “substantial improvement” or the costs exceeded 50% of the value of the structure.
Woodstock said the ordinance is too broad and seems to be geared toward an urban area rather than specific to Union County.
Supervisor Rick Friday, who also owns land in a flood plain, questioned whether a permit would be needed for a structure designed to provide shade for cattle.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jo Duckworth said that it would need a permit.
She explained the need for the ordinance is to protect nearby property owners from the effects of construction in the flood plain area.
“The permit purpose is to ensure you are not changing a waterway that would cause future damage downstream or upstream from that construction,” Duckworth said.
A further purpose of the ordinance is to allow Union County and its residents to be eligible for federal funding in case of flood and to allow landowners to purchase flood insurance.
“What happens if we don’t enact an ordinance is federal disaster assistance limitations, public assistance goes away, individual assistance goes away... permanent work on public structures goes away,” Duckworth said.
She pointed out that many of the landowners current concerns are actually items already prohibited or that need permits under the existing flood plain ordinance — which does not meet the guidelines for federal funding.
Duckworth also stated that she is pursuing some flood mitigation projects and grants that cannot move forward until the county has adopted an appropriate flood ordinance.
Some possible solutions to the landowners’ concerns were: exempting agricultural structures and/or water gaps from the ordinance, allowing landowners to apply for a one-time permit to build, repair and maintain a structure such as a water gap rather than requiring a new permit each time the structure needs repair, or creating an online application to streamline the process for the landowner.
Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon stated that the county has had problems before when it substantially changed a proposed regulation to fit its needs even though the changes were approved by the state. He suggested that a variance is a more appropriate tool to allow landowners to build structures such as water gaps in flood plain areas.
Kenyon said he would rather allow the board, which understands the needs of the area, to make decisions by using variances, rather than work with DNR to change the ordinance.
Woodstock said he understood the need for the ordinance but urged the board to make it as non-burdensome as possible.
“The risk at the other end is severe,” Woodstock said, speaking of losses not covered by FEMA in the absence of an ordinance. “You need something. It’s just, if there’s a way to mitigate the impact, at least from my perspective, that what we are trying to do.”
The board voted to set a third public hearing for July 15 in order to give Duckworth time to investigate whether an amended ordinance would satisfy the requirements from the DNR and allow Kenyon to research variances.
The board unanimously passed resolution No. 3 a Union County Private-Public Partnership Rock Surfacing Program allowing the county to partner with private businesses and citizens to purchase gravel for public roads. Union County Engineer Zach Gunsolley explained the county would match the contributions dollar-for-dollar, the county would still be responsible for applying the gravel and the material would become county property.
The resolution was designed to allow Union County residents and businesses to speed up the process of getting gravel on their roads. Gunsolley explained that the partnership would place the purchaser at a higher priority for secondary roads, but it would not place them above Federal Emergency Management Administration projects or projects deemed more time-sensitive by secondary roads.
The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly, 9 a.m. Monday inside the Union County Courthouse, 300 N. Pine St.