“Everything on hold until October,” said Caryville Council Chair Henry Chambers.
by Kathy Foster
The majority of the land in Caryville, Florida lies within a designated flood plain and flooding has been a problem there for many years. Following floods there several years ago large chunks of property were obtained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through grant funding and those properties now fall under the FEMA guidelines. However, those guidelines have apparently not been followed by the town council.
At a special Town Council meeting July 22nd Councilman Timothy Hanes, referring to a report developed by the State Floodplain Management Office, Bureau of Mitigation, noted, “We haven’t gotten permission to do anything with the FEMA land.”
A substantial area of the Town, located in flood hazard areas, has been purchased using Mitigation funding provided by FEMA and administered by the State. Since the land use for the acquired land is designated as open space, only very restricted development that may support the use of the open space is permitted, and such development must be compliant with the terms of the deed restrictions and floodplain regulation. Re-development of properties in flood zones, where development must be substantially improved or where new development is proposed, must meet the flood provisions of the local flood damage prevention ordinance and the Florida Building Code.
Unfortunately, the report states the Town Council chair indicated that the town has no procedures for the review of permits in flood zones, nor does it regulate accessory structures, nor Manufactured Home/Recreational Vehicles.
Problems with use of the FEMA obtained lands came to light a few months ago when several citizen contacts were made concerning continued hunting leases that were not determined to be consistent with the deed restrictions established as part of the land conveyance provisions under Federal Mitigation Grant program requirements. Objections were also made concerning the Town contracting for the sale of resources removed from the land, and the nature of allowing exclusive uses that prevented citizens from accessing the land during certain times of the year.
The report released Wednesday included the following concerns with the community’s flood plain management regulations.
* Currently the Town’s ordinance is not consistent with the Florida Building Code and must be updated to be coordinated with the Code. Town officials were advised they should adopt the State model flood damage prevention ordinance at the earliest possible time.
* It was pointed out that the Town has no permit application to review proposed development activities in flood zones, and has no inter-local agreement with Washington County or consultants to perform floodplain management services for the incorporated area.
* Essentially, the community has no active floodplain management program.
* The Town has authorized the following kinds of activities on the FEMA-purchased property that was conveyed to the Town for management including: the sale of sand through open pit mining, the sale of timer with clear-cut harvesting of trees and re removal of vegetation, leasing of property for exclusive use by an area hunting club, deposition of concrete rubble from a demolished federally constructed bridge, and storage of asphalt millings for possible future use by the Town.
* The Town does not consistently enforce its floodplain regulations which is indicative of serious programmatic compliance problems resulting in, among other deficiencies, non-compliant uses on community and privately-owned properties in flood zones.
* The Town appears to have no knowledge or resources available to enable it to manage its flood zones or how to regulate activities in the special flood hazard areas, and has not satisfactorily implemented it flood ordinance in several years.
* The Town’s flood damage prevention ordinance, amended in September, 2011, designates the Mayor as the floodplain administrator. However, at the current time, the Town does not have a mayor, but has a Town Council Chairman, Mr. Henry Chambers. He has served on the Town Council for many years, but does not have the credentials as a certified floodplain manager under the Association of State Floodplain Managers certification program.
As part of the report Caryville officials were given until October 30, 2015 to address the following:
* Advise, or repeal and replace the Floodplain Ordinance to coordinate and be consistent with the Florida Building Code s that flood building stands meet the minimum or higher stands established.
* Implement the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) requirements, enter into an inter-local agreement with Washington County or a qualified consultant, or withdraw from the NFIP program.
* Submit all current lease documents on the acquired land where the Town has previously not requested review and approval by FEMA and the State prior to entering into a lease agreements. The Town must submit lease agreements and all supporting documentation for review to evaluate whether leases are compliant with the deed restrictions and floodplain regulations before it is authorized to renew a lease.
* Must also submit all contractual documents, condition statements and sales information on timber and other vegetative materials, sand or other geological resources removed from the acquired property that was purchased with FEMA funds.
* Must provide a copy of the floodplain permit it issued for the deposition of concrete rubble from the DOT bridge replacement project on the acquired property. The Town must also provide justification on how the rubble is consistent with the deed restrictions for the open space use on the Federal and State acquired lands.
* Submit documentation on how the Town will address and resolved the petroleum tank installation on the “open space” lands on the acquired property that was purchased with FEMA funds.
If these violations are not resolved by the October 30, 2015 deadline the State will recommend that FEMA consider enforcement action.