The Butler County Commission opened a discussion of amendments with the Butler County Zoning and Subdivision regulations

In light of some concern over the procedures for homestead and mortgage lot splits in previous meetings, the Butler County Commission opened a discussion of amendments with the Butler County Zoning and Subdivision regulations at their meeting on Monday morning.

“These are amendments that are being proposed because of questions raised by landowners and the commissioners,” began Rod Compton, director of Planning and Development. “Some of them basically involve changes to the regulations as per actions taken by this body several months ago in regards to homestead and mortgage lot splits. There’s always been the requirement to dedicate an easement if needed when applying for lot split procedures. Under this body’s instructions, it was decided it was really something that wasn’t really needed in all instances.”

“This is just on mortgage lot splits and homestead lot splits,” commented Commissioner Dan Woydziak. “If the landowner is going to go out and divide it up and add additional traffic and regulations, then I think we need to keep it in place, but otherwise it is not necessary.”

The commission was presented with further suggestions for changes to the zoning regulations.

“In the process of this, there was a number of other things that we looked at,” began Compton. “In some instances, the proposed changes will make things a little bit easier for people of Butler County.”

Some of the proposed regulation changes involved the construction and maintenance of homes in a flood plain.

“We’ve had issue with people putting electrical work and plumbing work in while building in a flood plain,” Compton said. “Our current regulations require that all plumbing and electrical equipment be at or above the base flood regulation. That doesn’t leave too much of a margin for error. It’s our proposal to change the regulation to require all items of that nature be a foot above the base flood level. An extra foot above gives you an additional area of safety and it will provide a consistency for all newly built homes in those areas.

“Another possible regulation change that I would like to present to the board involves some defining of the terms of maintenance. This addition of the definition of maintenance would allow homeowners to complete projects like re-roofing their home or re-siding their homes without a full engineering study. With these types of improvement, there is no increase of the footprint of these homes, so it is viewed that a full engineering study would be unnecessary. All of the proposed changes to the regulations were approved by the Department of Water Regulations.”

“In the end, this will be better for the property owners,” said Palmer. “But how did you come up with these changes?”

“I received a report from the Department of Water Resources containing suggestions and areas of improvements for the various areas of the state,” said Eric Triplett, Butler County Flood Plain administrator. “This way, if a resident is putting a post up for a mailbox and a set of parameters is established, the resident may do so without hiring an engineer and spending thousands of dollars. Before these proposed changes, anything and everything was considered a development and an engineering study was required.”

The proposed changes have the potential to make maintenance a little less costly.

“This is a great thing because if you’ve ever had to re-roof or re-side a home, it can add up quickly,” commented Commissioner Ed Myers. “You build something and there’s always a risk. So you look at it and say a flood like this only happens once a century. We can’t build for every possible contingency forever and ever. That obviously has a cost impact for new home construction. There is a measurable cost to that. I’m wondering if this is really necessary.”

“Yes, the chance is slight, but if you do have a house and you do have a flood, your HVAC equipment and everything is right at flood elevation,” said Compton. “If it floods an inch or two over that, then there will be some substantial damages to get that equipment repaired or replaced. People in the county are still looking at a minimum of 15 percent increase because the entire program is shifting to an actuarial program based on risk. If you lower your risk, it’s got to lower your insurance.”

Triplett went on to explain the current regulations require HVAC, electrical and plumbing equipment to be placed at or above the flood plain level, but this action does not exclude extra costs to the homeowner. All equipment placed at the flood plain level is required to be placed in a special sealed box and all duct work must be sealed. The procedure and equipment to bring the equipment into compliance with the current regulations would be more costly than simply moving the equipment up an extra foot.

“There are changes to circumstances every time you have a development,” commented Palmer. “During future flood times, the homeowners will be glad they did what the regulations require them to do.”

“It’s an aggravating thing to go though and it’s a costly thing to do, but that piece of mind has to be worth something,” said Compton. “The savings in the flood insurance alone is well worth the cost of the improvements.”

Along with changing the regulations of where equipment can be stored, the commission also heard a proposal to simplify the definitions of minor and major projects in a flood plain.

“Making a definition of a minor project and a major project could benefit the home owners as well,” Compton said. “This action will give the flood plain administrator the discretion to acknowledge what will and won’t need a full engineering study.”

The final regulation amendment proposed directly involves the footprints of the properties in a flood plain.

“We have requested a definition be outlined for the term ‘substantial improvement’ and requested that the term be defined as: any addition to the building that occurs outside of the footprint in a flood plain,’” Compton said. “This would allow home owners to complete simple home improvement projects without the task of hiring an engineer and completing a full engineering study.”

With the final amendment to the regulations heard and explained, the commission closed the public hearing and Commissioner Jeff Masterson moved to approve the amendments. The motion was carried 5-0.

Kari Adams can be reached at