New maps could boost building, buying

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

July 15, 2014

PRESTONSBURG — The city could be just a year away from some major changes in the real estate and construction markets, as federal officials are nearing a major overhaul to area flood maps.

Fire Chief Bobby Carpenter told the city council of the coming changes Monday night, saying he had some “great news,” “bad news” and “wonderful news” to share.

The “great news,” Carpenter said, was that the new flood maps drawn by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will remove about 98 percent of the city from the floodplain, including most of the main city, as well as much of the outlying areas Lancer, Cliffside and Goble Roberts.

That will mean a host of changes which could make city properties more attractive and construction in the area easier. Once the new maps become official, most property owners will save money, because they will no longer be under an obligation to purchase flood insurance, which could in turn make the properties more attractive to buyers. In addition, restrictions on construction in most parts of the city will no longer be in effect, meaning builders would no longer have to flood-proof new construction.

“That changes downtown drastically,” Carpenter said.

On the bad side of things, Carpenter told the council that the city is responsible for maintaining a levee system which drains runoff from the town. He described the city as “a bowl,” which the levee system is designed to drain. If that system is compromised, Carpenter said, the bowl could “fill up.”

Currently, the city is experiencing problems with one of those levees, Trimble Branch, which he said would need to be addressed before the new maps could take effect.

As for the “wonderful news,” Carpenter said the new maps make it very unlikely that the Corps will ever begin work on a planned floodwall that had proved unpopular to many property owners who would be affected. He said that, while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had alreadly put the project “on the back burner,” the greatly reduced area to be protected would make a Prestonsburg floodwall and even less of a priority.

Following Carpenter’s presentation, the council voted unanimously to begin the process of getting the new maps approved. That effort will take about a year, with the Corps facing numerous other obligations before coming back to the council for final approval.

All members were present for Monday’s meeting.