Residents express frustration with Larimer County's floodplain regulations

The citizen meeting with Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson kicked-off early Jan. 7 with a group of 33 residents prepared to discuss one main issue: Larimer County Land Use Code 4.2.2, which is the county’s policy relating to rebuilding after a flood.

The code, which deems floodplain properties unbuildable if 50 percent or more of the property is in need of improvements following a flood, has made it nearly impossible for some residents to add additions or even list their homes with local Realtors, said resident Scott Tally.

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“In the State of Colorado and Boulder County, you can rebuild on a floodplain,” Tally told the group who met at LaPorte Pizza. “Having unbuildable parcels is extreme. When has Boulder County given its citizens more rights than anywhere in the country?”

Tally explained he has been researching the code for months. Though he has spoken to many officials about the code, he has consistently been told two things: 1.) It has always been the county’s desire not to allow re-building in a flood zone and 2.) The commissioners have the ultimate say.

In an effort to convince the commissioners a change is needed, the group gathered to press for action.

Johnson responded to Tally and the rest of the group representing unincorporated areas of LaPorte, Poudre Canyon and Bellvue, by saying he thought the 50 percent rule was a rule created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It is not a FEMA rule,” Tally said, citing his research and clarifying it is specific to Larimer County.

“Well, I could be wrong,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he and the other commissioners planned to look into the code to see what can be done. Following the board meeting, Johnson would like to hear from residents at a public meeting scheduled from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, January 26 at the Larimer County Courthouse, 201 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins.

Johnson reminded residents that any changes in the code would need to consider the redesigning of the new floodplain maps, which are still in the design process and could take about two years to complete since the flood moved some geographical features such as rivers.

“Our whole flood insurance depends on the fact that we implement FEMA regulations. I don’t believe Larimer County ever consciously made the decision to go above FEMA/Federal regulations,” Johnson said. “I can tell you that with 100 percent certainty that neither of my two colleagues would want stricter regulations than Boulder.”

The meeting included updates from LaPorte Area Advisory Committee member Ed Stoner. He provided a brief overview of the committee, explaining that the county has a comprehensive plan adopted in 2004 that reviews development for specific locations.

The introduction from Stoner briefly opened the floor to the discussion of turning some vacant buildings in LaPorte into a community center. A survey is being distributed asking fellow residents if they’re in favor of a community center, what facilities/activities a community center should have, and how they would like the community center to be financed.

“The issue people are here about today is the floodplain. The LaPorte area advisory committee will not be part of that,” Stoner said.

And while the discussions to change floodplain regulations will be moving forward, some residents are concerned change may not be soon enough.

Before ending the session, Lily Rogers, 86, explained to Johnson that she will need to relocate with her husband. However, the floods, the county’s current code and buyer/Realtor reservations about buying are making such a move difficult.

“I am up the creek without a paddle. I feel like my house has been taken away from me,” she told Johnson.

A meeting with County Commissioners to discuss concerns regarding Code 4.2.2 is scheduled from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, January 26 at the Larimer County Courthouse, 201 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins.

Johnson’s next monthly citizen meeting will include:

• A representative from the Larimer County Humane Society will come in the near future. They’ll discuss plans for the new building, services and costs.

• A discussion addressing fraud, scam e-mails and telephone fraud.