BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission last week ordered an Upshur County resident to comply with Upshur County Floodplain and building permit ordinances.
At the commission’s Thursday, Aug. 13 meeting, Upshur County resident Larry Brown said he lives in the floodplain and he has been trying to get an address for two years.
Upshur County’s Floodplain ordinance requires residents who wish to build outside of Buckhannon city limits to obtain a building permit; it additionally requires anyone who wants to build in the floodplain to follow “certain minimum standards for construction” within the floodplain. View the ordinance here.
“I thought I was here to get an address; I have been trying to get an address for two years,” Brown said. “I’m in the floodplain; everything in Selbyville is in the floodplain. I have a camper out there, and I cannot see what is wrong with letting campers stay on the ground, as long as they are mine. I own the property, or do you folks own the property?”
“It’s to take care of the whole county because anytime you displace water, it goes to somebody else’s property,” Cutright said. “That’s the idea of the floodplain ordinance.”
A floodplain is an area of low-lying ground near a river or other waterway that’s subject to flooding.
Brown claimed Upshur County Building Permit Officer Terri Jo Bennett, who also handles addressing, mapping and floodplain issues, changed some of the rules regarding building in the floodplain.
“No, she hasn’t changed anything,” Cutright responded. “If it’s changed, it gets changed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). You are putting everybody else’s flood insurance in jeopardy. FEMA says if we don’t enforce this, they’ll take everybody’s flood insurance away, so I would really like to see you comply, Larry.”
Commissioner Sam Nolte asked what Brown would have to do to be in compliance with the ordinances.
“As Mr. Brown has said, there are a few campers on this piece of property that are in noncompliance,” Bennett said. “Anytime you put a camper in the floodplain, you are allowed to do that without any question, but they always have to be road-ready, which means you can’t attach anything to them, and they have to be licensed and insured. From the time that I have been on Mr. Brown’s property, it does not appear that those campers are that way.”
She said Brown first contacted her in October 2018 to receive an address.
“The very first thing I look at whenever you need an address is if you have a building permit,” Bennett said. “He did not have a building permit for the two new structures that he put in the floodplain.”
Brown said he gave Bennett $30 six months ago to cover that fee.
“I still have that check because we’re still waiting on the elevation certificates for the two buildings that you put there,” Bennett said. “There’s two structures that have been added to the properties that have been turned into camps or like those little accessory buildings that have been turned into camps that have electric to them. Anytime you do that in a floodplain, you have to do an elevation certificate and that elevation certificate is going to determine whether it has been elevated, or whether it has to be just secured to the ground.”
She said initially, Brown was going to remove the structures, rather than obtain the elevation certificates.
“I’ve been working with Mr. Brown since basically October of 2018 because first it was he was going to move them out, and then he came back and said no, he was going to leave them in and he would give me the elevation certificates,” Bennett said. “So, that’s where it left off until about two weeks ago when he came in to get another building permit to do a carport.”
“At that time, I said, ‘Why would we give you another building permit for a carport when you have not complied with the other stuff that we’ve been working on for the last couple of years?'” Bennett added.
Bennett said Brown needs two elevation certificates for the accessory structures on the property to be in compliance.
“What we need from him right now is two elevation certificates for the two accessory structures that he’s put on that property that is above and beyond and different than a camper,” Bennett said. “Even after the cease-and-desist letters have gone out, he’s still changing that property. He moved one of those accessory structures and now has an addition added to it. That was different from when we were supposed to meet at the property in November of 2018.”
“I own the property’ it’s my property,” Brown replied. “If you can do anything to what you own, why the hell own it?”
Cutright said he was willing to give Brown 30 days to get into compliance and if he doesn’t, the commission would turn the matter over to Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Hinkle.