Oak Creek got a development boon and discovered a potential development bust during Thursday night's Town Board meeting. The Town Board officially approved and annexed the Sierra View subdivision to the town of Oak Creek, but it also learned that another small development the board previously approved is in a flood zone that potentially should not have been qualified for construction.
Brett KenCairn's three-home affordable housing project at the corner of Arthur and Williams is in a flood zone that is designated "A" by the Federal Emergency Management Act, a fact he learned when he went to get his construction loan. Oak Creek is not supposed to allow building in its designated flood zones, according to the town's code.
"You wouldn't be in this predicament if we were better educated," said Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman. "We're the people who are supposed to know all these things."
After Oak Creek's 1984 flood, FEMA made new flood maps of Oak Creek, said Town Clerk Nancy Crawford. In 1989, Oak Creek was certified to join FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. At that time, the town agreed not to approve new building in the flood zones without a flood engineering survey.
But the Town Board has approved new construction in these zones, and at least one of those projects is under construction, board members said.
"Oak Creek is a known flood hazard. Basically it's like a time bomb. They know it's there, and they mapped it," KenCairn said. But he also noted that areas FEMA marks as "A" zones usually are marginal flood zones at best.
Regardless, anyone who wants to build in such a zone has to prove it won't flood with a flood engineering survey and an ensuing "letter of map amendment" from FEMA. That's an unexpected $8,000 to $9,000 that KenCairn will be spending in the coming weeks.
In the bigger picture, if FEMA finds that Oak Creek is not complying with their flood restrictions, the town could lose its certification for the National Flood Insurance Program. Without the federally subsidized flood insurance program, KenCairn said he would have to pay $3,000 per year for flood insurance.
"We dropped the ball," board member Mike Kien said after the current board and past board members in the audience agreed that these were legitimate concerns for the community and that upholding the terms of the flood plain designation was their responsibility.
KenCairn requested that the Town Board waive part of the sewer and water tap fees for the three new homes to help compensate for the expense of his flood engineering survey. He also recommended the town take advantage of having the surveyors already being set up in town to survey the remainder of that area that also is a designated flood zone at a reduced rate.
The Town Board waived one tap fee for KenCairn, valued at $5,000.
In other business, the Town Board approved a $200 contribution to Citizens to Save Our Public Lands for advertisements to help defeat a potential exchange of public lands to consolidate them on Emerald Mountain near Steamboat Springs.