As Townsend’s Planning Commission held its first meeting in the 2020 fiscal year, it weighed priorities for the near future, including a decision to require more precise flooding requirements on city site plans.

Commissioner Rick Younger brought Townsend’s site plan requirements before the commission Thursday, submitting that checklists for reviving planned development could and should be more complete when it comes to flood planning.

“The only thing we’ve got in our checklist is a flood-hazard identification,” Younger told commissioners. “I don’t know if that’s supposed to be just a yes or no answer or what. But there’s nothing in there about showing the 100-year flood and showing the building elevation.”

Planning commissioners took no action on the lack of floodplain identification requirements during their meeting, but they did discuss it for close to half-an-hour.

The main issue brought to the fore was exactly how developers were required to plan for flooding.

Younger pointed to Townsend resident Earl Brown’s request to build on a lot near Little River as an example. Brown’s request to build on a lot close to the river was approved by the Townsend Planning Commission in April despite being in a floodplain — as are most of the properties near to the bank.

Earlier this year, planning officials reviewed plans from Brown that showed building elevation but no relationship to 100-year flooding. “Then he got flood certification that was based on the 500-year flood, which had the first floor of the building being nine feet in the air,” Younger said.

Now the city is looking to make it a requirement to have 100-year flooding information on all relevant site plans.

“Most surveyors put it on there,” Younger said. “But surveyors do love checklists, especially in Blount County.” He and City Planner Joe Barrett agree that the flooding information is usually noted on planning maps regardless of whether or not the city required it.

“Is it easy to just add it to the checklist?” Planning Commission Chairman Eric Stein asked.

“We can add it to the regulations and then modify the checklist,” Barrett replied.

Younger emphasized cleaning up details like these are vital and any gap in the city’s regulation could be dangerous.

“If we get audited by FEMA, they are ruthless,” he said.

“If everybody’s agreeable, we could clarify this,” Barrett said, agreeing that the language could be more specific and the risk of a penalty was at least possible.

Barrett told commissioners he would take responsibility for the wording on a new amendment, but they did not vote on any changes.

Townsend’s Planning Commission next meets Aug. 8.

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