The Bourne Planning Board has voted in favor of replacing an entire section of the town’s zoning bylaws. The board approved the new section, which is relative to federal floodplain regulations, for inclusion on May’s Annual/Special Town Meeting warrant.
The board addressed the proposed change in zoning bylaw during its remote meeting on March 18. Town Planner Coreen V. Moore said adoption of the new bylaw would mean discarding the current section on the floodplain in its entirety.
Town Engineer Timothy P. Lydon explained that adoption of the proposed bylaw change is really about complying with the federal government. He said the state was “a little lax about enforcing federal regulations” relative to the National Flood Insurance Program.
‘It basically shores up our compliance with the NFIP,” he said. “At any point, if FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] saw we weren’t in compliance, they could have come in and said, ‘We’re going to suspend you and your ratepayers from receiving any disaster funding or even getting flood insurance from the federally backed program.’”
Mr. Lydon pointed out the new bylaw includes definitions, which, he said, “can be really helpful.” He noted an engineer can interpret a word or phrase differently than a planning board member might. Inclusion of definitions makes it much easier, he said, to administer the bylaw at a local level.
The bylaw calls for Bourne’s building inspector, currently Kenneth Murphy, to be appointed the town’s floodplain administer, Mr. Lydon said. In addition, Mr. Lydon said he and Conservation Agent Samuel O. Haines will be designated as certified floodplain managers and will assist Mr. Murphy to ensure the bylaw is administered.
“He enforces the building code, and a lot of this stuff falls under the building code,” Mr. Lydon said.
Under the proposed new bylaw, all activity in the flood zone will require permitting from the town, Mr. Lydon said. For example, storage of an oil tanker will require proof that it is easily moved and that it is “registered, licensed and road-ready,” he said.
“We need to know that any fill you’re going to bring in isn’t going to adversely impact your neighbor,” he said. “Fences being put in are going to need a permit on the coast.”
Mr. Lydon noted that some of what is in the proposed bylaw is already the case, but adoption “shores up a lot of the language, a lot of the gaps we might have.” He also pointed out that Bourne is working with the Barnstable County Extension to get involved in a FEMA-sponsored program called the Community Rating System.
FEMA’s website describes the program as “a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.” More than 1,500 communities are involved in the program, which Mr. Lydon said “offers a way for communities to earn credits that, in turn, give flood zone insurance ratepayers a discount.”
The new bylaw provides a process for someone to seek a variance from regulations, but the language also stipulates that any variance must still comply with state law, Mr. Lydon said. The bylaw also keeps in effect the 50 percent rule governing work on existing structures, he said.
“If you want to do work on a structure in the flood zone, you can’t exceed 50 percent of the value of the structure, or else you need to raise it to current flood zone compliance,” he said.
Language has also been added to the bylaw relative to recreational vehicles in the flood zone. People living in mobile homes, recreational vehicles and campers are at a high risk of injury, he said. Those vehicles will need to be licensed and road-ready, he said, “as more of a public safety thing.”
“If it is not,” he said, “it needs to be elevated and anchored.”
Mr. Lydon said the proposed new floodplain bylaw “has everything we need,” and he felt very confident in rolling it out.
Ms. Moore said replacing completely the current section of the bylaw, Section 3100, will be more efficient than adding and deleting specific sections.
“We’re just going to wipe out the old one and recommend inserting the new,” she said.
Planning board members voted unanimously in favor of recommending the article, as presented, be moved forward for residents to vote on at Town Meeting. Annual/Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 3, in the gymnasium at Bourne Middle School.