CLARENDON — The town wants no part of the federal government’s efforts to update floodplain maps.
At its Nov. 25 meeting, the Select Board voted unanimously to approve a motion from Selectman Robert Congdon to “... authorize the chairman of the Planning Commission to include in their letter that the town Select Board has resolved that they also want no part of any further FEMA mapping in the town of Clarendon, as what stands is sufficient.”
The letter is being sent to Scott Olson, of the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the minutes from the meeting.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey are working to update the floodplain maps for the Otter Creek watershed. Whether a property is in a floodplain or not can affect what local and state regulations apply to it, as well as whether or not it needs flood insurance.
“You know the old saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions?” said Brownson Spencer, chairman of the Planning Commission. “That’s what the Planning Commission feels is going on here. Ever since (Tropical Storm Irene), there’s been sort of a push to say the storm we’ve always been regulated by is the so-called 100-year storm, but Irene is now the new 100-year storm, which many of us don’t believe to be the case. We think it was much bigger than 100-year storm. So, the Planning Commission’s position is that increasing the properties that are going to be subject to flood insurance is bad for the town for several reasons.”
He said being in a floodplain restricts what one can do with a property, thereby lowering its value, which affects the tax base. Flood insurance is also expensive, he said.
“Our biggest concern is there’s not much benefit, and a whole lot of pain would come with increasing the number of properties in town subject to flood hazard insurance,” he said.
Congdon wondered if the town could opt-out of the mapping process. Selectman Cash Ruane said if the town doesn’t offer any input, it risks having the process go forward without it having a say.
“I think we will get a chance,” said Spencer. “It’s a multi-step process. Right now what they’re talking about doing is the mapping. We should be able to see the results of the mapping, and from that we’ll get an idea of what they’re thinking.”
Spencer said he believes FEMA is seeking to increase the number of properties in floodplains so it can sell more insurance through a program it offers.
Several board members expressed their displeasure with several planning and regulatory agencies, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and the Agency of Natural Resources among them.
“As far as I’m concerned, having dealt with ANR of late, I’m sick of it,” said Select Board Chairman Mike Klopchin. “Everything wants to make Burlington look pretty, everyone else winds up high and dry. I’m totally in agreement with this motion and I can’t wait to see the finished letter that comes from our town.”
Spencer was also appointed as Clarendon’s representative to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission after the position had been posted for some time with no response.
Rutland Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Ed Bove said Monday his agency has nothing to do with the flood mapping beyond letting towns know FEMA is doing it and helping them offer input. He said he doesn’t believe it’s something a town can opt in or out of.