Picayune adopts new flood ordinance

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, April 26, 2007

New flood plain ordinances have been adopted in Picayune and the city council had some things to address concerning the lack of a detailed flood study conducted inside the city limits while such studies were conducted in the county.

While those studies were conducted in the county it was on a limited basis since funds were limited. To make those limited funds go farther the study used previous detailed information gathered inside the city limits combined with new information gathered from a Light-Imaging Detection and Ranging topography study conducted county wide, including both cities.

After the city council held a meeting Wednesday in their chambers to adopt the new flood plain ordinances to keep them in compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, a controversy arose concerning the study to produce updated flood plain maps.

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Council member Leaverne Guy brought up his observation concerning there was not a new detailed study conducted within the city limits of Picayune and he wanted to know why.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me a study wasn’t done inside the city limits, it just don’t,” Guy said.

Pearl River County Planning Director Harold Holmes said previous to the study being conducted there was a scope meeting conducted in Oct. 2004 that all city and county officials were invited to, which all city and county officials did not appear at. Picayune city officials sent their city manager at the time, J.P. Burns, and the city engineer at the time, David Hattaway, to represent them, Holmes said. Guy said since those two were present there should have been a need addressed for a study inside the city limits.

Council member Larry Watkins further added that county supervisors were present at the scope meeting and one of those supervisors represents him where he lives inside the city limits.

“It’s not the matter if there was representation, it’s the matter if we got represented or not,” Watkins said.

Neither Watkins nor Guy said they were at the scope meeting.

Holmes said the reason Picayune did not get a new study was because funds granted for the project by FEMA were limited, about $600,000 to do map work for the entire county. On top of that a detailed study had previously been conducted inside the city, but detailed studies had not previously been conducted in the county only limited studies. So to make the limited amount of money go farther Picayune’s previous detailed study and the performed limited number of county detailed studies were combined with the county wide LIDAR topography study. All of this information was combined to create the new flood maps shown at the meeting.

David Spectre, a project manager with Camp, Dresser and McKee, said the LIDAR study is a limited detail study of the topographical features of a certain area, in this case Pearl River County. By using that study they were able to study about seven times more of the county than if a detailed study had been conducted county wide, for the same price. No county involved in the flood map update received enough money from FEMA to do a detailed study on the entire county, Spectre said. He did admit that while some Pearl River County studies did end at the city limits of Picayune, as Guy had mentioned, other studies did not and the whole county did not get a detailed study. Spectre said a new detailed study in Picayune was not a priority because the previous detailed study was deemed sufficient.

With those limited funds the study conducted was maneuvered to get the most benefit for the most population in the county, Holmes said.

Before the debate with the flood maps ensued the council approved adopting the new flood plain ordinances set forth by FEMA so they can stay in compliance with FEMA regulations. There was some question as to whether to adopt the minimum requirement of one foot above the current requirement or to go to three feet higher.

Council member Anna Turnage suggested going with the one foot increase since it could be modified later by the council and since home owners could build higher if they wanted.

The higher the home is elevated above FEMA minimums the higher the flood insurance discount the homeowner would receive, Bob Durin with FEMA said. These new height regulations would apply to new homes and any significant additions to existing homes, City of Picayune Code Zoning Building Administrator and Flood Plain Manager Tammy Campbell said. Existing homes are grandfathered in.

There are provisions for repetitive flood loss properties who are in the certified flood zone areas to apply for help to protect their homes from floods, providing up to $30,000 to do so. One resident was not satisfied with that kind of assistance.

“It would cost as much to raise that house as it would to build three,” said Arthur Williams.

The council approved adopting the new flood plain ordinance at the one foot increase and leaving additional height increases to the home owner whim.

The next meeting of the city council will be held at 6 p.m. May 1 in the council chambers.