Pocopson residents push for delay on floodplain ordinance

A map showing much of the flood plain in Pocopson near the Brandywine Creek. Courtesy, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

POCOPSON – Many residents from Lenape Cabin Club, Inc., who live along the Brandywine River, attended the public hearing portion of Monday night’s township meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to ultimately adopt floodplain ordinance provisions in accordance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Lenape Cabin Club, Inc. consists of 17 residential homes off Creek Road on Cabin Club Lane. One of the residents and Vice President, Robert Smith, informed Supervisors Ricki Stumpo and Alice Balsama – Elaine DiMonte was not in attendance – residents on the lane “received no kind of notifications at all.”

Stumpo held a list of 72 impacted residents – but addresses were missing and residents claimed they never received notices.

After some debate on where the notices were sent and who received them, or not, Stumpo reported that the public notice was advertised, it appeared on the township’s website and in the newspaper, and there was an official presentation. It was also included on the township bulletin board and documented in the meeting minutes – but only one person attended any of the township meetings when it appeared on the agenda.

FEMA completed a study along with flood mapping and proposed the ordinance with a timeframe for approval. One of the updates to the ordinance makes it difficult for rebuilding homes in areas prone to flooding. It stipulates if the damage to the home is 50 percent or greater then it’s value, a variance is needed to rebuild.

The ordinance includes updates from a “model law” presented by FEMA to the state of Pennsylvania. The township must submit the ordinance by the end of September and if not, flood insurance won’t be available for any township resident. The revised ordinance was previously reviewed over the last year. It was given the nod of approval by the township’s planning commission, its engineers and solicitor. The public hearing was then advertised according to the guidelines.

“We live literally five feet from the water and we are definitely on the floodplain and we received absolutely no mail…and we really don’t know what is going on in terms of changes…,” said Smith.

“This affects 17 of us and we are all literally in the same boat,” added another Cabin Club Lane resident.

Smith requested a synopsis of the proposed changes to the ordinance and the supervisors agreed to send out an email comparing the prior ordinance highlighting the proposed changes and impact.

“Where we are now is that we are in the tenth hour because if we don’t enact the ordinance, what happens is flood insurance isn’t available for any township resident. That’s the impact of not establishing the ordinance…if we don’t get it in by the 29th of September…FEMA looked at their maps…and completed a study after all of these storms came through…and made this ordinance proposal and fed it out to us last year and gave a timeframe,” Balsama informed the audience.

“A variance capability exists and a variance could be granted it someone brings forth an argument,” she added.

Randy Mims, a member of the township’s historical committee and resident of Denton Hollow Road, mentioned that because the township does not have an historical commission and the historical homes are not on a state list, they are not protected. By putting them on the list, the homes could be exempt.

“It’s not going to help all of us, but will help some,” said Mims.

The supervisors requested that Mims send the suggestion in writing so it could be shared with the planning commission and township solicitor for feasible action.

“We need to give folks who are residents a chance to read the flood ordinance and we are going to check the listing of who received it,” said Balsama.

The request to put the hearing on hold for a few weeks until the residents could review it in more detail and suggest possible amendments was agreed upon and a new hearing will be scheduled – after the public is notified – again.

The supervisors will hold special meetings in August just for the review of the ordinance. The ordinance will be resubmitted to the township solicitor then presented to the county, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and FEMA for approval again. This process will need to be expedited, according to the supervisors, as the process takes much time.

In other news, Kennett Library representative Brad Piper announced a change in the original building plans that was supposed to be a joint effort with the borough. It was to include a new police station and the borough offices.

“We will do it independently of Kennett Borough, Piper announced. It was going to cost more money…That was completely unexpected.”

According to Piper, the prevailing wages’ requirements for the necessary government contract would increase costs by 15-20 percent and add two-three million dollars to the project. The library is a non-profit organization and would avoid entering into a government contract on its own.

The new two-story building, as opposed to the originally planned three stories, is expected to begin construction in late 2018.

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