Wales Town decides to join FEMA flood insurance program, with opt-out option
WALES—Wales Town adopted an ordinance and passed a resolution to include the town in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program during the town council meeting on Oct. 6.
Mayor Keith Jensen hesitated before the decision to sign with FEMA was made because he said he wanted to ensure there was an option to opt out of the plan without consequence if it did not meet the needs of the town.
According to FEMA, the flood insurance program is intended to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures by providing affordable insurance to property owners. It also encourages communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations.
Jensen conducted research at the meeting and told council members and citizens that the FEMA policy says a municipality that withdraws from the flood insurance program faces similar limitations as some other forms of federal assistance but can opt out at any time.
One of the limitations is that lenders are forcing out private flood insurance options and enforcing buyers to hold insurance with the FEMA flood insurance program.
Those seeking loans under the Federal Housing Administration and Rural Development are strictly required to hold FEMA flood insurance before being granted the federally backed loan.
Local citizens Clay and Kristen Snow said unless the town adopts the ordinance, then they would be unable to sell their home because it was part of one of these low-income loan types.
Representatives from the Planning and Zoning Committee who attended the meeting told the council they spoke with FEMA representatives out of Colorado who sent them a model resolution and ordinances to adopt.
“We would agree as a town that we would do certain things to mitigate flood damage,” said one member of the planning and zoning committee who referred to the model plan. “If we do that on the government side of things, they will subsidize insurance plans, and it might be cheaper because a lot of [lenders] require this over private policies.
“If we do this, they provide the insurance and, as a committee, we think it a good thing and can’t see any [future] detriment.”
Jensen said signing up for the program was just another method used by the government to put Wales under its thumb.
“It’s a federal government dictate of how we manage our town,” Jensen said. “We could do that locally without their interference. It’s overkill and designed for people who have flood problems. We don’t have that big of a deal here and our participation would be [minimal].”
Planning and zoning committee reps disagreed with Jensen and said it had nothing to do with the rule of the government, but rather one created by mortgage companies because they want to protect their properties and require them to have flood insurance if they are in mapped flood zones.
Under federal law, lenders are required to disclose maps that outline disaster hazard zones and have disaster insurance types available if they grant buyers a federal loan, which was another concern brought up by the council.
“I remember discussing this before and we didn’t agree with their mapping, for one thing. We didn’t feel like it was accurate and we didn’t understand who surveyed the floodplain. We had a lot of problems with it to begin with,” Jensen said.
Councilman Byron Davis also said he questioned the accuracy with the map and that no one remembers when government officials came in to survey the area.
The planning and zoning representative told the council that “it doesn’t take an engineer to determine flood zones” and said that satellite images from Google Earth show drainage areas that go through the town.
Davis and Jensen corrected the committee member and said those images could be severely outdated, especially since the town has taken measures to protect it from flooding.
After the town council had approved adoption of the ordinance and passed the resolution, Jensen told those in attendance the town will remain on the plan until they have reason to withdraw.