Citizens review floodplain map

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As the skies took a break from day-long rain storms, Madison Township residents gathered in the township’s community center to learn about new information regarding the possibility of too much water in the floodplain and their homes.

An open house was held Oct. 23 by the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department to explain Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain revisions, which will go into effect in May 2008. The new data impacts property owners living in the unincorporated areas of the township and includes information on properties removed or added to maps and parcels still located within the floodplain boundaries.

Parcels were identified coming in and out of the floodplain and several are farm fields. One of the main areas targeted was Blacklick Estates. County GIS data, in addition to aerial surveys, was used to determine the approximately 1,900 properties in the Madison Township floodplain. Boundaries were revised to reflect new topographical information and although floodplain levels have not changed, boundaries were re-aligned because of more accurate information.

Representatives from the department were on hand to assist residents in determining how their properties were affected by FEMA floodplain revisions. Over 150 residents attended the forum and the community response surprised organizers as a registration line snaked out of the presentation area and down the hallway.

"We’ve had a tremendous turnout," said Madison Township Trustee Jim Hummel as he fielded questions from interested property owners. "We want to make sure people know that the

township has nothing to do with the changes, those come from FEMA, and that flood insurance is a requirement by the lender and is backed by FEMA. I didn’t expect there to be nearly this many people."

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Bill and Cathy Rucker live on Arnsby Road and are located in the floodplain, although their property has never flooded in almost 30 years. Four homes directly across the street from them are not in the floodplain, which makes the $330 the Ruckers pay in additional annual insurance an ironic situation.

"We’ve lived there since 1978, but we didn’t know we were in the floodplain until we took out a loan for some renovations five years ago and were told by the lender we had to get flood insurance," said Mrs. Rucker. "The entire property is in the floodplain, but we only had to get insurance on the amount of the renovations, which worked out to about $1 for each $100 of value. We came here tonight hoping we might be taken out of the floodplain, but we’re not surprised that our status didn’t change."

Blacklick Estates homeowner Buddy Mason bought his Noe-Bixby Road property five years ago. At the time, his lender did not require floodplain insurance, but when his loan was bought out by another company, the new lender required the policy even though only 10 feet of his property is in the floodplain and does not include any structures.

"They wanted to force their insurance on me at double the price of what others were charging, so I got it on my own, but I still paid $800 extra a year. I refinanced the loan two years later and the third lender didn’t require the insurance," said Mason. "There is a way to contest the need for insurance and that is why I came here tonight. I don’t have to have flood insurance right now, but I want to have my ducks in a row in case things change and you have to have documentation and know who to contact. I bought another house to rent out and it is entirely in the floodplain right now, but with the changes, when the new maps go into affect in 2008, the house won’t be in the floodplain and I won’t need the extra insurance. I want to have everything ready to contact my lender and insurance company when the time comes."

Dave Dickensheets of Deforest Drive bought his home in 1975 and, like the Ruckers, did not know he needed flood insurance until he refinanced his property three years ago.

"The mortgage company demanded flood insurance and I have to pay $600 a year," said Dickensheets. "I’ve had three mortgage companies and this is the only one that required it. It bothers me that FEMA suggests it, but it’s left up to the mortgage and insurance companies.  If you are going to make it mandatory for homes with a mortgage, homes without a mortgage can still flood just as well and it should be mandatory for everyone. With so many people involved, it could drive down the cost for everyone. I feel it would be more fair. If you make a law, make it for everyone, not just chosen ones."

Of the nearly 2,000 properties included in the floodplain, roughly 1,200 have structures in areas identified as prone to flooding, which could require additional insurance not normally covered in homeowner policies.

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