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What could be one of the most significant events in recent New Albany and Union County history occurred this week when proposed new flood plain maps were delivered to the county.
Large amounts of low-lying land in the county, including land bordering the Tallahatchie River, have been added to Zone A Wetlands, a designation that requires the purchase of flood insurance.
Existing development would be grandfathered in and flood insurance could be obtained at a cheaper rate for some period of time, according to Mildred Churchill, 911 director and flood plain manager. The designation could greatly impede development because getting a permit for development, and the accompanying insurance, would become much more difficult and expensive.
As we understand it, the designation also could make sale of existing houses and businesses much harder.
New Albany areas most severely affected by the change include many of the businesses (including the Gazette) along Carter Avenue, businesses near the Union County Co-Op building on Bankhead Street, and the New Albany Sportsplex and its proposed expansion. Much of the flat land proposed for development east of the former Safari’s restaurant also is included in the flood plain.
The updated maps are an outgrowth of problems that became apparent during Hurricane Katrina. A public hearing on the maps, which are available to see in the Chancery Court building, will be conducted in November. Unless engineers can be shown that errors have been made, the maps will stand as drawn.
State and federal emergency management agencies require that Union County and the cities of New Albany, Blue Springs and Myrtle approve the maps.
These new flood plain designations, while probably necessary, potentially can be a major blow to existing and proposed development in our area.
It’s certainly not pleasant news in the current economy.