New Flood Plain Lines Affect Tenn. Home Values, Insurance

May 10, 2007

Tennessee counties are in the process of a five-year plan to update old flood maps, but some homeowners are concerned the new versions could lead to lowered home values and the need for additional insurance.

Shannon McDonald lives in a Brentwood subdivision that is now a flood plain on the updated Williamson County map.

“I wonder who all of a sudden decides you’re in the flood plain,” McDonald said. “The land has not changed. This is not going to flood.”

Currently, county maps used by mortgage lenders and emergency officials could be 30 years old or older. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency started the program in 2004 to redraw those maps in communities nationwide.

About 14 percent of county maps in Tennessee are complete and many more are in the draft stage. Davidson and Hamilton counties are completed, but Knox and Shelby counties aren’t. Greene, Hawkins, Washington and Sullivan counties in northeast Tennessee are all completed.

The state is getting up to $250,000 per county to restudy and digitize the maps, said Stanley Harrison, who oversees the National Flood Insurance Program for Tennessee.

The federal money, which is matched at 20 percent by the state, isn’t enough to completely redraw the flood plains and many county maps will just be put in a new format, Harrison said.

“We are getting far less money than we asked for, but at least we are getting the maps in much better quality and a digital format,” he said.

Lenders can look up maps online by the parcel number to determine if a borrower has enough flood insurance.

Robertson County planner Bob Hoge said the maps from the 1970s were never even completed and the county has been warning homeowners of impending updates.

“We’ve been telling most people who come in here that are on streams that are not mapped that, ‘You’re not in a flood hazard today, but a year from now you might be,”’ he said. “It’s going to be better in that the current maps don’t really follow the topography the way they should.”

The counties and communities approve the new maps in public meetings after FEMA provides the draft versions.

Communities or neighborhood associations have the option of appealing changes. One subdivision in Franklin plans that after the new map put some of it in a flood plain and a mortgage company has required homeowners to get flood insurance.

Information from: The Tennessean,

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