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County eyes use for flood plain buyouts

PROCTORVILLE – Land left vacant from the coming years’ federal buyout of eastern Lawrence County homes lying in floodplain areas will likely revert to public use through park or ballfield development, county commissioners said Thursday.

Friday, October 01, 1999

PROCTORVILLE – Land left vacant from the coming years’ federal buyout of eastern Lawrence County homes lying in floodplain areas will likely revert to public use through park or ballfield development, county commissioners said Thursday.

"There are a number of areas in the immediate communities that if (homeowners) choose to move out could be further developed," commission president Bruce Trent said, citing new Little League fields as one example.

The land for such development would come from the county’s participation in the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).

The county applied last year for HMGP monies, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which identified about 121 homes eligible to be bought in River Acres, Plantation Estates, Rice Holderby, Miller East, Rejon Acres, Miller South and Indian Guyan subdivisions.

The grant requires participants to leave the area that is in danger of flooding to stop the cycle of the government paying for flood damage repairs.

After demolition of the structures, the grant requires the county leave the land as open space.

Plantation Estates resident George Black questioned commissioners about plans for that open space, concerned weeds would overrun empty lots and devalue those that remain.

"I believe the commission would not want them to come into disrepair," Trent said.

Although structures cannot be placed on the vacant land, which would be owned by the county, opening it up for parks, school football fields or other uses is possible, he said.

"If some good community use could be gained, I think the county would favor it."

So far, HMGP program officials have met with 37 property owners and have conducted appraisals on 10 properties. The grant sets May 2001 as the target date for completing the buyouts, which are strictly voluntary.

In other action Thursday, commissioners:

– Heard a report from Lawrence County Floodplain Management Program officials about a new federal floodplain elevation certificate.

Surveyors and others use elevation certificates to record a homeowner’s proximity to the floodplain – required by the National Flood Insurance Program and county regulations.

Current forms will be replaced new ones effective Jan. 1 as ordered by FEMA.

– Rejected bids on the Lawrence County Board of Elections renovation. Bids were 10 percent more than the estimated cost of the project.

The project will repair the floor, walls and restructure the office.

The county also approved a motion allowing the architect to modify plans to bring costs down.

– Tabled action on charging plat fees to subdivision developers.

The Lawrence County Planning Commission asked the county to charge a flat $250 fee per plat and a $50 trip charge for subsequent visits to inspect developments

County regulations require a fee be paid before subdivision approval by commissioners, and two new developments are ready to come before the board next week, said Doug Cade, planning director for the planning commission.

Minor subdivisions of less than five lots are not required to seek plat approval, but the county needs to establish a plat fee for larger developments, Cade said.

Commissioners voiced concern about how many trips that inspections would require and the resulting cost to developers. Yet inspections are necessary to protect the public’s interests in roadway and construction plans, they said.

Although planning commission members approved the fee schedule unanimously, Trent said the county commission needs to study the issue further and consider a control mechanism for inspectors’ trip fees.

– Agreed to submit a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the Rome Township Public Parks Association, requesting the Corps assist with designs of the old Lock 27 area on which the group wants to develop a park.

Township trustee J.B. Finlay said the Corps is willing, but they need a lease from the commission because it holds the lease on the lock.

– Added County Road 12 South to a letter requesting further local and state action on reducing the speed limit on County Road 70. The two roads intersect.