Thursday, October 16, 2008
Stiffer housing permits possible
By SUE WATSON
With rapid development of subdivisions in some supervisor districts the last few years, more problems with flash flooding of houses are being reported, according to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors.
Developers should be left on the hook longer to fix flooding problems caused by lack of foresight, they said.
District 4 supervisor George Zinn III brought the problem before the meeting of the board Monday. He said problems with flooding in Moore Loop on Moore Plantation could have been addressed before developers or homebuyers built. In one instance a house was built below a hill and water shedding off the hill floods the house below.
“Homeowners think the county is responsible,” Zinn said. “Zoning needs to address this during the development stage.”
Supervisor Keith Taylor, who has lots of flooding of subdivisions in his district after flash floods, said poor lot preparation by developers is causing some standing of water in yards after heavy rains.
“When their yard floods, they blame us,” he said.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett thinks the homeowner needs to shoulder the problem, not the county board of supervisors.
“You don’t go put a house on a bad lot,” he said.
Zoning director Conway Moore noted that the homes under discussion were not built in a flood plain.
Zinn said homeowners may not know how to correct the problem.
“Water coming off a hill during quick rains is not a flood zone,” Bennett insisted. “You remove trees and the water does not slow down.”
Taylor believes developers put in subdivisions in haste, without considering how the water will shed off the land.
“To start with, the ditches ought to be cut right,” said Larry Hall, county administrator. “Several years ago in conference, there was a legal person who warned y’all about issuing permits and potential liability. You may need to require developers to put houses two blocks higher.”
Taylor said some yards are saturated in the Nonconnah Drive area and water is not draining off the yard into the ditch at Moore Plantation.
“It’s going to get worse,” said Zinn. “Something should be done to break water coming off a hill.”
Taylor wanted to know if qualified inspectors are going out when a house is inspected.
“Could you advise them that they are going to have water problems?” Zinn asked.
Moore said when she sees an obvious problem she puts a stop work order on the builder.
“We do have the right to tell them they have to fix it and when we do finals (inspections) we have tried to get houses sloped off the pad,” she said.
“I don’t think the county should get into these problems,” said Bennett. “Homeowners should go back to the developer or else we’ll be changing this water all over the county. You cannot look when you build and always know where the water will go.”
Moore suggested the county require the developer to sign-off on a building permit that the county is not responsible for flood waters.
“It’s not the county’s fault because we let them build there," Bennett said.
Board attorney Kent Smith advised that if the county goes in to redirect flood waters caused by improper engineering, the county would be taking action that is not legal for the county to take.
“The rule of thumb is, we need to get our engineers with the developer’s engineer to plan for hydraulics on projects,” Smith said.
“Before we issue permits we need to check off on drainage,” Taylor said, citing drainage issues at Roper Plantation as an example.
Bennett argued that it is impossible to predict where flooding will occur in all cases.
“You are not going to get it all right until it’s rained a few times,” he said. “The simple way to do it is give them (homebuyers) some time when they can go back to the developer.”
“I think in some cases the developer is passing the buck on to the county,” said Zinn.
Moore said drainage concerns would not be put in subdivision covenants.
Smith said the county’s guidelines relative to flooding could be attached as an addendum to the subdivision covenants.
“We could require it be included as an addendum before a subdivision is approved,” he said.
“Right now, developers don’t care,” said Bennett. “They could do a better job of planning.”
Hall stressed that too many of these flooding incidents are caused by putting the house on a low slab.
“Some of these slabs are so low a crawdad could walk right on in,” he said.
Attorney Smith agreed to craft an amendment that can be considered by the board as an addendum to subdivision building permits.
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