Clark County moves forward with resolution to purchase 80 acres of timberland

Amended Flood Plain ordinance approved


On March 21, the Clark County Board of Supervisors considered acquiring landlocked timberland in the Town of Seif. The Clark Forestry and Parks committee desired to purchase 80 acres of real property currently owned by Laurie and Andrea Gapko. As the owners would like a quick sale, in order for the county to expediate the purchase a resolution needed to pass allowing The Nature Conservancy to buy it on behalf of the county and hold it until 2025. The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit, global conservation organization, whose goal is to preserve forest lands and natural resources. The company has no intention of keeping the land, they would just step in to facilitate the sale and keep it until the county can purchase it from them. The resolution states the Forestry and Parks Committee agrees to purchase the land as long as the price does not exceed $2,500 per acre. Also, this property that is presently landlocked by county forest land, will perpetually provide forest products to the county’s local economy, revenues to the county, outdoor recreation opportunities to the public and improve wildlife habitat.
John Wendorski, Assistant Forest Administrator with the Parks and Forestry Department, spoke in depth on this resolution. He said this is something that their department would like to budget for in 2025 and would like to apply for a Knowles-Nelson grant which would cover 50% of the cost. He further explained why according to the 15-year comprehensive land use plan, this property is desirable for the county to purchase. He cited the following reasons, “We look for lands that improve management efficiency such as reducing the length of private public boundaries, or improve access to existing forest lands that will increase the county forest inventory of productive timberland and provide consistent source of raw materials to the forest products industry; lands that conserve surface and groundwater maintain undeveloped shoreline and increase public access to water features; and lands adjacent to county forests that had very difficult access to the terrain or natural features or are landlocked. Because this hit for those goals, that's why our committee decided that this was in fact that a good property to try to acquire.”
A supervisor asked if any timber is ready to harvest now? “There are.” Wendorski said pointing to the map of the property. “Stand number three, we're calling it as mature Oak, 1920s origin, has been managed very lightly over the years. I mean, we feel like if we purchased the property we could very quickly go in set a timber sale include some of stand 2 which are ready for more clear cut harvesting, like Aspen stands and we could potentially recoup, conservatively, the money that we draw out of our fund balance.”
With much discussion regarding the value of the land to the county, the board approved applying for the grant and to purchase the land from the Nature Conservancy in 2025.
The board heard from Derek Weyer, Clark County Zoning Administrator, regarding the Flood Prevention and Control ordinance. He gave a detailed overview of the flood plain situation in Clark County.
“A floodplain is defined as lands that are covered by water during a regional flood event,” Weyer began. “A regional flooding event is considered what we call a 1% chance to 100-year storm that is that has been equated. So, the floodplain in Clark County if we go all the way back to 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency went ahead and remapped the entire county. The mapping that was done for all intents and purposes was done very inaccurately. We found discrepancies throughout the entire county primarily and really one of the reasons why we're here tonight is between the highway 95 bridge down in the town of Levis and Dewhurst down to the mouth of the Lake Arbutus the mapping was done so incorrectly.”
At the time, there were landowners along the Black River who were looking to do development projects and since the entire parcel was in what we call the Zone A Floodplain it was considered a flood way and Planning and Zoning cannot issue any permits. At the time when we got letters from a property owner that said you need to lower my property taxes because I can't develop anything in my lands. So, in the meantime, what are the options to the county or to any landowner along portions of a river? You can do what's known as a letter of map revision. And in order to get a letter of map revision, you have to do a study called an H and H Study which stands for Hydraulic and Hydrology Study. The county put up $30,000 and hired a consultant to take cross sections of the Black River and map the river and then did a bunch of calculations and we determined what is known as a base flood elevation. And we take which is known as a Zone A Flood Zone and we submit it to FEMA to make it a Zone AE Floodplain zone. AE stands for actual elevation.”
Weyer shared some changes to state statutes that benefit the landowners in flood zone areas. “This state statute gave owners another option to a. - not pay flood insurance but b. - also have developable lands in a floodplain. Where this is beneficial is now instead of doing what we had to do down on Black River, which is primarily the most development that we had along river in the county, give other options to the owner who has floodplain on their property. If they want to try to get out of the floodplain. They can work with a licensed surveyor and submit and then my office is allowed to then issue a land use permit.”
The board unanimously approved this ordinance, and it will be sent quickly to FEMA for approval.