As noted in February, the Developer is back with a request for a Variance from the Flood Control Ordinance. The hearing is now scheduled for tomorrow before the Board of Zoning Appeals II. Since December, I have received more information from many sources that fill in a lot of blanks.
The short version is that the Developer, an offshoot of the Keystone Group, wants to save a few bucks by building 2 feet below the base flood elevation and 4 feet below the elevation required by the Ordinance - saying that someday the floodwall in this area will be completed and at THAT time, they will be one foot above the flood elevation. They, of course, would still be 1 foot below the building elevation required at THAT time as well. Keystone goes so far as to claim that if it does not get this Variance, that it will not be economically feasible to build the garage.
Sounds like somebody, including the City, did not do it's due diligence when scouting for and accepting this as the best location for additional parking in Broad Ripple.“The redevelopment could not occur without relief from the requirement that the base floor elevation be at least two (2) feet above the base flood elevation due to excessive costs in meeting such requirement.”
There are a few problems with allowing this variance.
The Flood Control Ordinance was put in place to keep Indy in the FEMA Flood Insurance Program in the first place. The Feds are the only ones who back flood insurance. And they ask, reasonably so, that any new building in flood prone areas, be built a safe distance above the 'base flood elevation', which is determined from the 100 year flood elevation data. This protects the building and protects the integrity of the insurance program that covers so many existing buildings. It is reasonable to have these protections in place.
So what if the Broad Ripple parking garage floods? Well, the City's $6.34 million 'investment' in the building gets flushed down the toilet. The IMPD substation could have damage to its equipment. The retail portion of the ground floor would be the developer's problem.
More importantly, though, the very existence of the Variance can push FEMA to once again slap Indianapolis with higher flood insurance premiums, or worse, exclude us entirely from the program. This falls on the shoulders of homeowners and other building owners throughout the County that rely on flood insurance to protect their investment.
The single focus that has been evident on building a garage at this location should not be extended to the point where other people within our City could suffer financial costs and losses. That is exactly what granting this Variance would do.
Happily, the City Staff is recommending denial of this Variance and the City's Department of Code Enforcement has sent a letter also requesting denial of the Variance as it could put our participation in the FEMA Flood Insurance Program in real danger.
Hopefully, the BZA will deny this request tomorrow.