For the first time since November 2009, changes are coming to the city of Urbana’s floodplain map, and it’s good news for dozens of property owners who will have the option of opting out of their flood insurance coverage.
With the city having embarked on numerous projects over the past decade aimed at improving the drainage of natural waterways through Urbana, Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said city officials decided in 2014 to investigate whether the structural improvements had reduced the boundaries of the city’s floodplain, which consists of two primary areas: Dugan Run (flows in a northeast to southwest direction through the city’s corporation limits from the Dellinger Road/East Lawn Avenue intersection to the Mad River) and Tributary A (contains fishing pond at Melvin Miller Park and creek that flows north into the pond from the Washington Avenue area and east from the pond to near the East Lawn Avenue/Terry Lane intersection).
To have the floodplain studied, the city brought on EMH&T (Engineers, Surveyors, Planners, Scientists), a Columbus-based firm. Four years and $92,115 later, the firm has entered the third and final phase of the Dugan Run Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis Study, which involves the submission of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Letter of Map Revision.
Crabill said while it could take longer than the current calendar year before the changes to the city’s floodplain map become official, EMH&T’s work to this point shows, pending FEMA approval, that nearly 70 properties will be affected in one way or another by the map revisions.
Of the 67 properties listed in the study, 55 stand to be removed from the city’s floodplain, while 12 would be added.
As to why so many properties are affected by the pending floodplain map changes less than eight years after FEMA’s last update, Zoning Officer Adam Moore said, “It’s probably a combination of new structures, updated topography data, and just the new modeling techniques that these engineering firms use.”
Crabill added new drainage structures were installed along Dugan Run in various locations (Maple Tree Lane, Bloomfield Avenue, Julia Street, West Ward Street, North Russell Street) over the past decade to help with flow and reduce flooding.
“The Terry Lane and Maple Tree Lane area still obviously has the potential to flood, but we’ve seen less seasonal flooding than we used to have before those structures were replaced,” he said. “I think those structures are doing what they are supposed to do as far as letting more water through.”
Weighing the positives, negatives
To look at the overall impact of the study on the community, officials turned to one measuring tool in particular – flood insurance premiums.
According to Moore, mortgage companies require property owners to carry flood insurance if they have a mortgage on a structure located within a floodplain.
Research efforts by city staff revealed that of the 55 properties scheduled to be removed from the floodplain, 29 still have mortgages. By being removed from the floodplain, these owners would save, based on an estimated 1.16 percent premium rate on the appraised value of each property, a combined $26,115.20 in flood insurance premiums, assuming everyone opts out of carrying coverage, Moore said.
Of the 12 properties in line to be added to the floodplain, only two still have mortgages, Moore added, which would cost the two property owners a combined $1,922.24 in flood insurance premiums per year.
According to Crabill, although the figures used to calculate potential flood insurance premiums are simply estimates, it does provide the city with a way of weighing the pros and cons of the ongoing floodplain study.
“We feel overall that the advantages (decrease of roughly $26,000 in annual flood insurance premiums among property owners leaving the floodplain) outweigh the negatives (property owners moving into the floodplain paying roughly a combined $2,000 in yearly flood insurance premiums),” Crabill said.
Additional map details
The majority of the 55 properties on the verge of being removed from the city’s floodplain – 36 to be exact – are located within the Tributary A area and primarily involve properties on North Jefferson Avenue, East Lawn Avenue, Bloomfield Avenue, Dorothy Moore Avenue and Terry Lane.
The 19 properties located within the Dugan Run area that are anticipated to be excluded from the floodplain within the next year are found mainly on Boyce Street, Julia Street and Maple Tree Lane.
Of the 12 properties that appear to be destined to be added to the city’s floodplain, nine are located in the northwest quadrant of Urbana in the general area of the Depot Coffee House on Miami Street.
The city’s contract with EMH&T states that all property owners affected by the anticipated changes to the floodplain map will be notified by the city prior to any revisions being made official.