Council To Vote On Higher Flood Plain Insurance Standards; Decision Probably Will Lower Premiums
Casper City Council will vote to accept revised floodplain management regulations, which will result in lower flood insurance premiums for certain homeowners, at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) occasionally updates its flood insurance studies and flood insurance rate maps, and local governments need to adopt them so homeowners in flood plains can qualify for National Flood Insurance Program discounts.
If local governments do not adopt the revised maps and regulations, property owners whose buildings are in floodplains will not be able to obtain flood insurance at a discounted rate, and probably would not be able to obtain mortgages, said Constance Lake of the city's Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The Natrona County Commission approved the new insurance studies and rate maps on April 7.
Casper City Council considered the same issue that same night and voted for the ordinance on first reading, but not after lengthy discussion about what level of standards should be adopted for residents whose homes are in the flood plain.
Pat Sweeney, owner of the Parkway Plaza which is close to the North Platte River, urged council to adopt what FEMA considers the minimum standards for flood insurance.
But Lake said Casper would be better off having higher standards that would result in lower rates.
Those higher standards for new construction would include a 1-foot freeboard on the foundation to raise the main floor of the house.
Council member Dan Sandoval objected to the higher standards, saying they would burden the property owner with an added cost of construction.
Mayor Charlie Powell, on the other hand, said the higher standards would result in lower insurance premiums.
Those divergent opinions carried over to council's work session on April 14.
Sandoval said he didn't like making decisions, in this case insurance rate decisions, for property owners.
But Bob Hopkins said the city already makes similar determinations affecting property owners, citing how the placement of fire hydrants will affect fire insurance rates paid by homeowners.
Shawn Johnson added people hear "higher standards" and they think that means more government regulation.
Powell said a few property owners may benefit if the city adopts the minimum standards, but hundreds more will be burdened with higher rates.
Ray Pacheco said people generally don't like government, but adopting the higher standards would be a smart decision.
In an informal thumbs up-thumbs down vote, most council members agreed to adopt the higher standards.