Brazoria County Emergency Service District No. 3 has canceled a contract to purchase property located south of County Road 59 in Manvel after disputes with the city government regarding whether the district would be permitted to build a new fire and EMS station there because the land was located in an area defined as a floodplain by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“There’s a city ordinance that prohibits critical facilities in a floodplain,” Brian Owens, director of administration for the district, said.
The district had plans of obtaining a Letter of Map Revision from FEMA that modifies the floodplain map based on physical measures taken, such as land being built up before construction. This process has been used by many of the new housing development being constructed in the area, but Owens said the city would not guarantee that the district would be permitted to build even after the obtainment of a LOMR.
Owens said the district backed out in fear of a possible waste of taxpayers’ money.
“Our fear was going through the expense of purchasing the land, the expense of the LOMR, the expense of it without a guarantee that we could build,” Owens said.
Owens said the district is trying to ensure coverage in areas in the northern part of Brazoria County that are experiencing rapid growth, and the proposed facility was part of that. He said it will be nearly impossible to find land north of County Road 58 not defined as floodplain after FEMA revised the definition of floodplain in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to include all areas within the 500- year flood level rather than the 100-year flood level.
Manvel City Councilman Larry Akery has shown interest in helping the district gain the legal ability to build where needed by granting variances or revising the ordinance preventing them from doing so.
“They’re trying to figure out what’s the best approach,” Owens said.
Owens said if a solution is not found that would allow the district to build in the area despite the FEMA flood maps, it would have to locate any new station far south of County Road 58, approximately lateral with the Rodeo Palms development.
“Then all these subdivisions up here — the apartments, the assisted living, all of this dense populated area on the north side are just — we’re going to extend, if we have to come down past 58, we’re extending their response times by that length of time. So then they’re not going to get as quick of a response as they probably should get, especially in a densely populated area like that,” Owens said.
These areas would include the large Pomona development, Sedona Lakes, Silverlake and the South Fork area.
Owens said despite the setback off County Road 59, the district is progressing with its plans to ensure adequate coverage for its northern Brazoria County area, including a new station in the planning stages in the Iowa Colony portion of Meridiana, allowing for easier and quicker access to State Highway 288.