The Butler County Commissioners completed a work session concerning the Wagon Wheel subdivision on Tuesday morning. Planning and zoning director Rod Compton began the discussion by giving a brief background on the situation.
"Back in 2010 the Division of Water Resources division began to regularly enforce their flood plain regulations,” he said. “Since that time, Eric Triplett has come on board working with property owners throughout the county in resolving the flood plain issues.”
Wagon Wheel Ranch is an old subdivision located two miles west of Santa Fe Lake Road. A number of the homes in that area are located within a floodway.
Since the flood in 2009, the homes have been ordered to be moved or raised. If a structure receives damages from whatever source, that equals or exceeds 50 percent of the value of the structure, then it needs to be in compliance with the new regulations. Numerous structures have been raised and several have been moved.
There are several property owners in residences who are in the process of being raised.
“We don’t have much leeway in how we administer or enforce flood plain regulations,” Compton said. “We have the state looking over our shoulders and FEMA is looking over their shoulders. The property in question is one of those properties. There was a berm or levee that was placed around it and that cannot be done under the regulations. The presence of the residence cannot raise the water level. Our instructions were to raise this house four and a half feet and remove the levee."
"The house was raised an additional few feet in order to use the space as a garage underneath," explained Eric Triplett, a representative for Planning and Zoning to members of the community. "We have litigation pending on the removal of the berm. In working with the homeowner, we have determined that leaving the berm in place during the construction and raising of the home was prudent. The problem has been that we don’t have the level of the property before the berm was put in. We are trying to determine what needs to be removed in order to be compliant. Everybody’s trying to play nice and head into the same direction as far as getting this taken care of."
The house, which is currently owned by Bert Helmer, has been the source of debate for years.
"I live right across the creek," commented Norma Woods, a neighbor in the area. "When this berm was built in 2001, 50-100 loads of dirt were brought in. Why didn’t the county make that berm go away at that time? I think the berm should have all come out of there before you started the construction on the house. I don’t want to see my house washed away. I’ve lived there for 42 years."
Page 2 of 3 - The current owner of the home in question then addressed the commission.
"The berm was there when I bought the property in 2006," said Bert Helmer. "As a little bit of clarification, I think we’re discussing issues that are a little bit out of our control. I’m trying to deal with things that allow me to come into compliance.
“Now, that berm is gone that area is going to take in a lot of water when the floods do occur. I don’t want Norma to flood. We used to be great neighbors and if it's up to me, we still will be. The material that the berm was constructed of has been utilized according to code and according to grade. If the engineer says we should be doing something different, then we will."
"Everything that is happening with this construction site is in the scope of what the state requires," added Commissioner Dan Woydziak.
"I think Eric has done a good job," added Commissioner Jeff Masterson. "There is probably no way to make everybody happy. He's done a good job trying to accommodate everyone’s concerns"
"You do work well with us and I appreciate it," said Woods. "Even if I argue with you."
Still, not all neighbors in the area were satisfied by the current efforts of the county.
"There was some bad decisions made," said neighbor Gerald Hammond. "When the surveyors came in, they called it oceanfront property. Some of the neighbors call it the lighthouse. I’m saying they used the material that was supposed to be taken out."
"When the house was raised, it was sitting over crawl-space," said Triplett. "In the flood plain you can't have a crawl-space. When they formed out the footings and set the stem-walls, there was a gap in under the house. They used the materials from the berm to fill those so that they could create the vents."
The issue was tabled for further discussion at a later date.
The commission also:
• approved the request for a conditional use permit to erect a self-supported wireless communications tower on the north side of Highway 54 near Rosalia.
• approved a request for a conditional use permit to erect a wind generator for personal use on property.
• approved the acceptance of the right-of-way dedications for the Final Plat of Haney Acres Subdivision.
• approved the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition Service Local Agency contract for the amount of $156,383.
• conducted a work session concerning the Emergency Medical Services' current collection policy and requested a cost analysis on the use of more diligent tactics through their collection agency.
Page 3 of 3 - • authorized the Emergency Communications director to pay the annual payment for the Reverse 911 in the amount of $11,500.
• approved the Department of Public Works to solicit sealed bids for corrugated metal pipe culverts for the Highway Division.
• approved the contracts for the culvert letting No. 68 for the construction of seven reinforced concrete box structures throughout Butler County.
• conducted a work session regarding a current conflicting of dual financial advisors in hopes of consolidation of the positions for future use.
• heard the testimony of Nancy Bacon of Augusta in regards to the unlawful taking of land for the use of Butler County and the avoidance of public discussion on the matter. That issue was tabled to gather more information and was scheduled to appear on the agenda for Oct. 8.