Insurance for floods changing in Cape

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cape Girardeau residents and business owners along Cape LaCroix Creek and Walker Branch will be able to drop their costly flood insurance once federal revisions to flood plain maps along Cape LaCroix Creek and Walker Branch take effect April 4, city officials said.

Affected property owners will be able to quit paying for flood insurance or pay reduced rates. They also are entitled to refunds for premium costs dating back 12 to 18 months, Mayor Jay Knudtson said.

Business owners and residents have been frustrated by having to continually pay costly flood insurance even though their properties no longer are threatened by flash flooding.

Knudtson, a local banker, said he's heard the frustrations from property owners who are required to purchase flood insurance as a condition for a bank loan.

The flood plain changes could save businesses thousands of dollars a year.

Bill Zellmer, owner of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar in the Town Plaza, has been frustrated at having to pay $3,000 a year for required flood insurance when his business no longer is at risk of flooding thanks to the flood control project. Zellmer said he hopes this April he'll be able to quit his flood policy.

For homeowners, the cost of flood insurance averages about $600 to $700 a year, said Bill Vaughn, the city's development services coordinator. The change will affect hundreds of households, he said.

Cape Girardeau officials aren't counting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the government office responsible for making the changes, to get the word out.

At the council's urging, the city staff plans to hold a public meeting on March 31 at the Osage Community Centre to explain the flood plain changes to property owners, insurance agents and mortgage lenders.

The open-house style meeting will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Interested residents can attend at any time within that period and ask questions of the city's planning services staff.

City officials had lobbied for FEMA to change the flood plain maps now that the federal flood control project along Cape LaCroix Creek and Walker Branch has been completed. Work officially ended on the project last April.

Knudtson said the city has the responsibility to inform residents and business owners of the flood plain changes even though it's FEMA that regulates flood plains.

"I think sometimes we have situations that are good situations, but because they are not communicated properly they can turn into a negative," Knudtson said.

The affected area will extend along Cape LaCroix Creek from near the Jaycee Municipal Golf Course downstream to where it empties into the Mississippi River, and along Walker Branch from Perryville Road and Cape Rock Drive downstream to the Bloomfield Road and Good Hope Street area, city officials said.

Vaughn said the FEMA-approved changes in flood plain boundaries are reflected in maps the agency provided to the city.

At this point, the city has the only revised flood plain maps. FEMA isn't planning to distribute revised flood plain maps, he said.

Vaughn said the flood plain maps will be displayed at the public meeting and eventually may be made available on the city's Web site.

335-6611, extension 123

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