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New maps move new lands into floodplain zones

Oct. 22, 2013

Germantown — The Village Board on Monday made a plea to residents to check updated federal floodplain maps that include some properties that hadn't been in an official floodplain before.

Owners of property within a designated floodplain are required to have flood insurance.

The Village Board adopted a floodplain ordinance that reflects new Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Natural Resources floodplain maps that go into effect in November. The maps had to be adopted in order to maintain the village's eligibility in the Federal National Flood Insurance program.

However, the adoption of the maps came with a warning from village officials and staff members because of what they say are map inaccuracies.

As early as 2009, after the preliminary digital floodplain maps were distributed to the village for review and comment, village staff had numerous issues with their accuracy. The preliminary maps had labeling errors, and the floodplain boundaries did not reflect previous map amendments already adopted and documented by FEMA, according the village documents.

Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Retzlaff said the new maps superimposed the old or current floodplain boundaries over current aerial photography. This skewed floodplain boundaries just enough that parts of some properties that were not in floodplains are now in them.

As a result, Retzlaff said property owners who were previously not required to purchase flood insurance will now have to, even though other evidence exists that shows that parcel or building is not in the flood hazard area.

Germantown condominium owner Rick Briggeman is already facing this issue. The new floodplain maps put two corners of his building in the floodplain. The building is 18 feet from the actual floodplain, but not according to the new maps, he said. Briggeman made a plea to the Village Board to help remove the property from the floodplain.

The village's hands are tied, Village President Dean Wolter said.

"The battle proving if you are in or out (of the floodplain) is your battle with the federal government," Wolter said. "If we would not approve this tonight, everyone else in the village of Germantown could not be a part of this federal program, but there are inconsistencies that have to be taken piece by piece."

The most the village can do is provide historic documentation that shows the building is not within a floodplain. Residents can then then take that information and apply for a map amendment. Or, they have to purchase flood insurance, which can be costly.

Retzlaff said a few residents in Germantown already have had map amendments approved. Wolter said residents whose property is close to a waterway or the Menomonee River should look at the maps now, so they don't find out their home is in a floodplain at a worse time, such as when they are trying to sell it.

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