The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 9, 2013

City eases restrictions in floodplain law

Dave Sutor

JOHNSTOWN — A few tweaks have been made to Johnstown’s floodplain ordinance in recent weeks.

The changes, passed as an amendment by City Council, took effect in late November. The board now is trying to make the public aware of the new regulations.

Most notably, the city previously had stricter requirements for the location of electrical distribution panels than even the Federal Emergency Management Agency stipulates.

Johnstown’s previous guidelines called for such panels to be placed at least 3 feet above the base flood elevation, defined on FEMA’s website as the “computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during the base flood.”

Now, the panels only need to be at the level specified by FEMA.

“We are no longer stricter than what FEMA requires,” said Renee Daly, the city’s community and economic development director.

Melissa Komar, Johnstown’s land management coordinator, added, “We’re trying to not make things any more stringent than they need to be.”

Water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, ventilation units and other similar apparatuses now must be located at or above the base flood elevation, or they can be designed or located in a way that prevents water from entering them.

The previous requirement was that such equipment could not be located below the regulatory flood elevation, a measurement of 1 foot beyond the 100-year floodplain.

Other small changes were made concerning application permits, enforcement, diagrams, notices and appeals.

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