FEMA Halts City's Flood Plain Building Permits

June 29, 2006 - Posted at 5:56 p.m. CST

JONESOBOR, AR -- On Wednesday, the city of Jonesboro received word from the Federal Office of Emergency Management that they were halting the city from issuing building permits or certificate of occupancies for anyone located in a city flood plain.

Thursday afternoon the city council met for a heated meeting over what this means for the city and several projects in the making.

"It's so confusing," said Jonesboro Mayor Doug Formon, "We are going to have to have someone come in here and I am not excited about an audit.  I wish they wouldn't have shut down the permits on the flood plain, but I think someone needs to come in here and tell us what we need to do right."

"We're playing with some real big stakes here," said Kohl's contractor Mike Cameron.

According to FEMA, changes were made to the city's flood plain when some structures were built that were not reported to FEMA. One of the areas directly affected by this ban is the retailer Kohl's which is currently under construction off of Fair Park Boulevard.

"Now it makes no difference when I complete the project.  They can't occupy the building anyway," said Cameron.

The Kohl's project has an estimated turnover date of July 14 th, but without a certificate of occupancy, the project and the city could be in trouble.

"I can tell you that I guess the ramifications are going to put a lot of lawyers to work," said Cameron.

Cameron expects construction to continue Thursday because the project already attained a building permit but he says that isn't even a guarantee.

"FEMA could shut down every bit of construction today and you tell me how many people wouldn't get a pay check," said Cameron.

FEMA's potential changes could affect some citizens now located in the flood plain as well.

"If these new numbers went into place, if they weren't checked adequately, people that are not paying flood insurance may have to start paying flood insurance," said city council member Alec Farmer.

The city could also run the risk of being taken off of FEMA flood insurance program all together. At this point no one knows how long the ban on building permits and certificates of occupancy will last. It's been estimated as little as three to five days and as long as three months.