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Date of Issue: October 07, 2009

Panel OKs draft floodplain plan

Holmes Beach city officials are wondering: How low can they go?

The city is working on a floodplain plan with the goal of lowering flood insurance premiums for property owners and lowering the risk for major damage from floodwaters.

On Sept. 30, a panel of city staff and elected officials signed off on a draft floodplain plan presented by planning consultant Bill Brisson.

The next step, said Brisson, would be a city commission review, which will take place at a meeting Oct. 13.

If the draft passes the commission-test, commissioners likely will adopt the plan Oct. 27, said Chair Sandy Haas-Martens.

The city began working on a plan over the summer, part of a larger effort to improve Holmes Beach’s rating under the National Flood Insurance Program. The NFIP conducts a community scoring system that leads to discounts on insurance premiums.

 All three Island cities participate in the national program. On a scale of 1-10, Anna Maria’s rating is 5, with a 25 percent discount for properties in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency designates a Special Flood Hazard Area, or the 100-year floodplain, and Bradenton Beach’s rating is 6, with a 20 percent discount for SFHA properties. Holmes Beach’s current rating or class is 7, with a 15 percent discount.

City public works superintendent Joe Duennes said the city has taken a number of steps to improve its rating in the next FEMA audit, which is scheduled for this fall.

One step is the writing of a floodplain management plan.

The plan presented to the panel last week consisted of 34 pages, but Brisson said it would grow with the inclusion of relevant ordinances and other stormwater management documents.

The plan contains:

An outline of how Holmes Beach will coordinate best practices with other communities.

Flood hazard maps that show repetitive loss locations — property that has suffered repeat flood damage.

A map of elevated structures in the city.

A listing of past floods and damages.

A list of critical or significant buildings in the city, most of them public sites.

An assessment of drainage problems, which states, “Substantial areas of city right of way experience significant ponding for several days after nominal storm events.”

“In almost all cases, these areas can only be improved by installation/maintenance of local drainage swales or culvert systems and are generally not a result of fundamental drainage system deficiencies.”

A key section of the plan contains the city’s goals, some continuing current efforts, but new goals as well.

One recommendation in the plan is that the city amend its code to do more to encourage new commercial construction to reduce impervious-surface coverage.

Brisson suggested changing the code to reduce the allowed impervious surface coverage from 70 percent to 60 percent, unless new techniques and technologies are employed to collect runoff.

Duennes suggested, and the panel agreed, that the city should seek the goal, but instead of an impervious-surface coverage cap, the city require a minimum — 40 percent or 50 percent — pervious surface area, and provide developers with the option to accomplish that with an engineering system or by minimizing lot coverage, or both.

The panel also agreed to a recommendation from Brisson to eliminate a provision in the land-development code that exempted single-family and duplex construction from stormwater management requirements.

The planner said he would write the change to allow city staff some leeway.

Duennes said the change would not be significant. “In spirit, we’re doing it now,” he said.

Another approved change, which would only apply to new construction, would increase the current requirement for retaining the first 1/2 inch of rainfall in a 25-year storm to retaining the first inch.

Also, the panel approved a statement in the plan that says, when practical in the overlaying of streets, the city will use a milling process.

Milling is a process where old existing road surface is removed by a machine to expose the road base for a new surface.

Milling, according to the plan, gives greater curb depth and eliminates “wash board surfaces which result from folds in the road surface. This creates a more even riding surface and helps to reduce street ponding.”

The city, said Brisson, should receive points to improve its community rating on flood insurance for embarking on the planning process, as well as for initiating the changes in floodplain management.