Kent City Engineer explains floodplain map updates

By Elizabeth Randolph and Raymond Allan

Residents in the city of Kent have been concerned about the safety and value of their homes.

Recent updates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have shown an 18 percent increase in flood activity in the Forest Hills area. This was due to watersheds in Kent being expanded. FEMA notified the changes to the city of Kent as a means to be proactive. Many residents used the Nov. 18 Kent city council meeting in the floor of the Kent Fire Department to express their shock about being told about the updates of the map.

Peter Paino, a resident of Kent living on Windmere Lane was one of those residents and said the elevation in his backyard is 10 feet above the floodplain cutoff and was concerned about how it would affect residents who may try to sell their homes in the future.

“I don’t know what the city can do, but I know in our development, there’s about 50 houses out of 150 that will be impacted by this”

he said during the meeting.

 

City engineer Jim Bowling stands in his office with document in hand. Photo by Elizabeth Randolph.
City engineer Jim Bowling stands in his office with document in hand. Photo by Elizabeth Randolph.

City Engineer Jim Bowling said programs have been involved on a national level to ensure the safety of residents. One of them have been the National Flood Insurance Program, which is aimed at reducing the impact of flooding on private and public structures, according to it’s website.

“There was a significant amount of flooding, there was poor planning, which exaggerated a lot of damage from the flooding,” he said. “When that happens, the taxpayers and federal government would step in and that was the beginning of the national flood insurance program.”

Bowling said explaining the updates can be difficult to residents because they are relatively new. He said FEMA hadn’t updated the maps since 1977 and he worked to find the most recent maps to show any new changes.

“The city is required to do map maintenance where you’re supposed to update which areas have floodplains so no one mistakenly builds a home over there,” he said.

Bowling said flood insurance was one of the main concerns of the residents in the floodplain area.

“Based on FEMA’s regulations, flood insurance is only mandated if you’re in a flood zone.”

Prices for flood insurance can range between $125 a year to $6,000, depending on the size of the home and how close the home is to the flood zone.

The engineering department has finished updates on Plum Creek road, which is near Fish Creek and the Cuyahoga River. He said the data from any map can be difficult to appeal and is also a lengthy process.

“You have to show something where someone was flat out wrong to acquire the data,” he said.

Plans for the city of Kent’s engineering division will be to continue to educate residents of the floodplain maps so they are aware of what the maps are for.

“The thing that is going to come about is to be able to be able to manage the floodplain,” he said. “In our roles, we really represent the citizens of Kent, he said. “During the whole time this has been going on, we’ve really trying to find the validity. We really think that we have enough technical data to appeal it. We would need someone with an incorrect assumption.”

Bowling said the education of floodplain maps and the updates will help the city in a more positive way.

“If the city does not do its regular map maintenance, if it doesn’t do it’s end, if we continue to do what we’re not supposed to we can lose the funding. This is a positive thing to help manage public risk. By updating the maps, they’re not at risk and we can better protect them.”