Larimer County Commissioners to weigh floodway rebuilding options at March 11 meeting

Larimer County residents unable to rebuild homes damaged by the September 2013 floods due to code restrictions may have a timeline for resolution following a meeting next week, said Commissioner Steve Johnson at his March 4 meeting in LaPorte.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11 at the Larimer County Courthouse. It will examine the pros and cons of the two options directed at addressing concerns with Code 4.2.2, which currently prevents a homeowner from rebuilding a property that sustains damage greater than or equal to 50 percent of its value, Johnson said.

The first option is a “quick fix” geared at rewording the code to allow repairs in a non-flood related event, Johnson said. Whereas the second option examines the depth and velocity standards that may allow rebuilding restrictions more conducive to a mountain community. Pursuing this route will require extensive review and could take at least two years to implement, Johnson said.

Next week’s meeting is open to the community but public comment is at the discretion of the chairman, he said.

Larimer County has the highest number of federally declared disasters, Johnson told the group. The person entrusted with ensuring the county is able to navigate such a disaster is Lori Hodges, director of emergency management and recovery.

Hodges studied some of the nation’s highest profile disasters including the Joplin tornado, the San Diego wildfires and New Orleans’ handling of Hurricane Katrina. The communities that received the most positive praise for their handling showed collaboration between private, nonprofit and governmental sectors and also included a four phase approach, specifying how a community would respond to, recover from, prepare for and mitigate threats, she said.

“Resiliency is a new buzzword used for everything. It’s used poorly,” Hodges said, explaining to the group that resiliency implies a community bounces back to exactly where they were before the disaster. “How do we build strength?”

The strength is found in prevention, Hodges said. Prevention can take many forms such as clearing debris that can cause a wildfire or implementing zoning regulations that keep people and buildings out of areas known to experience catastrophic events.

Bellvue resident Bernie Alexie argued that prevention is something easier said than done.

Alexie recalled an event a couple of years ago when a damaged tree threatened to fall on his home. A quote to remove the tree was estimated at $2,000, yet leaving the tree and having it hit the home had the potential to cause $20,000 worth of damage. When he called his insurance company to discuss removal options, he was told the company could not do anything until the tree hit the house.

“It seems funding opportunities come after the fact. It seems to increase that fragility. We need to be proactive with money,” Alexie said.

An issue to which Hodges agreed.

Hal Braden questioned the difference between an emergency a landowner is expected to resolve and one where the county should get involved.

“If you call someone in the county you could end up talking to God or someone,” Braden said, explaining how it can sometimes be difficult to get answers.

The impact of a disconnected government and community results in some taking measures into their own hands. Braden cited an instance when the county asked residents to remove tree debris from their properties to reduce the risk of a fire. Some residents did not want to pay to have the tree branches hauled, so they were tossed the debris in the street leaving it for the county to clear, he said.

To help clear confusion, she distributed a copy of the Larimer County Emergency Preparedness Guide. The brochure is a reference tool with information on emergency services, preparedness tips, and emergency contact information. It can be found on the Larimer County website.

Addressing clean-up disasters and preparing for future catastrophes consumed a majority of the meeting, Karen Hare addressed potential traffic disasters.

Hare questioned whether the Colorado Department of Transportation was operating within its permit by allowing extended hours for the repavement project that will close state Highway 392 at U.S. Highway 287, opening Trilby Road as an alternate route.

“It’s an open question about what allows them to operate during those hours,” Johnson said. “We asked our attorney to review the permit and it appears they are operating within the permit.”

Johnson explained that there are a lot of vague questions about what may happen in the future. If it comes to the point where an administrative decision is made, Johnson assured Hare the board will take the public’s concern into consideration.

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