WILLMAR — Following approval of the city's application to join the National Flood Insurance Program, all property owners in Willmar will have the opportunity to purchase flood insurance, whether they are located in the floodplain or not.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Willmar City Council passed a resolution adopting the Floodplain Management Ordinance and one approving the city's participation in the national program. The city will now send the completed application, with the approved resolutions, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the program.
A handful of homeowners in Willmar, if they have an active mortgage on the property, will be required to purchase flood insurance because their properties are located within the floodplain. However, being part of the program opens the door for all property owners to be covered. Most traditional home insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
Willmar Planning and Development Services Director David Ramstad said there are approximately seven homes in the floodplain which might be required to purchase insurance. However, if the homeowner chooses, they can apply for the floodplain map to be revised, removing their property from the map. The cost to homeowners to do so is estimated between $2,000 and $3,000, Ramstad said.
"There is a route to get out of the floodplain for those few homeowners we believe are in," Ramstad said.
National Flood Insurance Program participation also allows interested buyers in homes in the floodplain to secure federally backed mortgages. It is a requirement of most mortgage lenders that buyers secure flood insurance for a property that is mapped as being in the floodplain. Being a member of the National Flood Insurance Program will make that much easier. Local real estate broker Doug Fenstra approached the city in May about joining the program because a client wanted to purchase a home in Willmar's floodplain and was unable to secure a mortgage because they could not get flood insurance.
As a participating city, Willmar will need to enforce flood-proof construction code for any building constructed in a floodplain. Ramstad said that will not add significant cost to the property owner or to the city, as flood-proof construction is mostly just changing where items are located in the property, such as not having the furnace in the basement.
"It is just a matter of putting them in different places. You are not adding or subtracting anything," Ramstad said.
A public hearing regarding the ordinance was held prior to the council voting. No one from the public spoke on the issue.
Ramstad has been working on the flood insurance ordinance and application since May. It went through several reviews by city staff and council members, who had concerns or questions regarding the program. In the end, the council approved everything on a vote of 7 to 0, with Councilor Fernando Alvarado absent.
"It was a labor-intensive process," Mayor Marv Calvin said. "I know we tried to do this a number of times in the past in the city of Willmar. Thank you for your tenacity to keep it in front of us."