Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brantley County Approves Flood Damage Ordinance; County Can Regulate Construction along the Satilla River

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brantley County Approves Flood Damage Ordinance; County Can Regulate Construction along the Satilla River

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE MORRISON

A little-noticed item on the Brantley County Commission's consent agenda almost two weeks ago was lumped in with others and passed with a single vote.

But the Flood Damage Prevention provision, which passed with no discussion, could foreshadowsweeping changes for construction projects along the banks of the Satilla River.

Adopted at the behest of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the ordinance gives the county the right to regulate construction along the Satilla and other streams in the county.

"The ordinance doesn't stop building in the floodplain, but it puts some fairly stringent requirements on it," commission Chairman Ron Ham said.

New construction along the river must be approved by the county's Code Enforcement Office, Ham said, and houses and other structures must be built at a height that has been determined to be safe from flooding and must meet other safety standards.

"We've got to stop building stuff, having it flood, then running to FEMA for money," Ham said. "We live at 60 feet of elevation here. You can't drive 40 feet down the hill and build something and expect it not to flood."

The ordinance was pushed by FEMA and it's state counterpart, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said Jamey O'Steen, vice chairman of the county's Planning Commission.

"What all this is driven by is that FEMA and GEMA basically are tired of writing checks every three or tour years for the same things," he said.

The ordinance won't affect existing structures, O'Steen said.

"There's nothing in the ordinance about tearing them down or anything like that," he said. "Basically, they're being grandfathered in."

Most of the hundreds of homes built along the riverbank would not meet the requirements of the ordinance, O'Steen said, but will remain immune to enforcement action unless major changes are made to those structures.

"If the owner wants to add on a porch or something like that, then he'll have to have the house raised to meet the requirements," O'Steen said.

The new elevation requirements will be included on updated flood maps currently being prepared. …

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