Mall Drainage Ditch Still Causing Homeowners Money

MAY 24, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:45 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- The Mall at Turtle Creek developers were required to relocate the drainage ditch at the site before breaking ground, making improvements. That all happened, the mall is now open, but the rezoning of the flood plains is at a stand still.

"I think it's just a lack of communication and little bit of misunderstanding on a complex issue," says Alec Farmer, a member of Jonesboro's City Council.

Whatever the case, homeowners that live behind the new Mall at Turtle Creek want answers and the problem can be complicated. Their homes currently remain zoned in a flood plain and therefore, they are forced to pay for flood insurance.

"Because of the improvements the mall made, there were about 400 to 500 families that were told they were going to be out of the flood plain. That's going to be the case, except the city doesn't control who's going to be in the flood plain and who's not going to be in the flood plain. That's controlled by F.E.M.A., the Federal Emergency Management Agency," says Farmer.

F.E.M.A. is the only organization by law that is authorized to create the map that zones which areas are designated flood zones, but the last time F.E.M.A. created the flood plains map for the area was 1991 and saying a lot has changed since then is definitely an understatement.

The city is projecting F.E.M.A. to complete the new flood map by this time next year, hopefully eliminating the extra dollars these homeowners are having to spend.

We tried to speak with several homeowners in the neighborhood behind the drainage ditch. They wouldn't comment on camera, but did say that they mostly just want the issue resolved as quickly as possible. They said they were promised this would be fixed when the mall was completed, but they're still paying flood insurance and feel like its just money being wasted.

City officials said they understand their frustrations and are working diligently with F.E.M.A. to resolve the problem.

"When you have a problem, you want if fixed today and the city is doing everything it can and working as fast as it can to fix the problem, but if anyone thought the minute the mall doors opened they would be out of the flood plain, again that was just a lack of communication," says Farmer.

As for now, city officials say they basically at the mercy of F.E.M.A. and are hoping to save homeowners in the area more money in the long run.