WNA to Restrict Property Rights?

Hi all, I hope everyone remains well.

I found out rather by accident the Warfleigh Neighborhood Association (“WNA”) was meeting last night (Tuesday, April 13) to discuss a proposal that could or would restrict the rights of property owners in Warfleigh. You most likely were not aware of the event because the WNA doesn’t widely notice its meetings and doesn’t provide agendas or minutes of such meetings. So, fortunately or unfortunately, here I am. Sigh.

Generally, the WNA contemplates creating an Historic or Conservation District in Warfleigh.  Under this plan, the WNA would develop “Zoning and Land Use Recommendations” to govern development and redevelopment in Warfleigh.  Any subsequent development or redevelopment would then need to obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)” indicating development or redevelopment is consistent with established guidelines and plans.  Most likely, the Zoning and Land Use Recommendations would be above and beyond the protections provided by existing zoning laws, code and regulation, otherwise there would be no need for the proposal and plan.

The Zoning and Land Use Recommendations could take various forms. For example, in historic districts, such as Monument Circle or Old Northside, every proposed change to the exterior of a building requires a Certificate of Appropriateness, except those that are specifically exempted by the development plan. This implies a strategy to protect architectural details as well as overall character.  Alternatively, in conservation districts, such as Ransom Place or Cumberland, only the proposed changes specified in the plan require a Certificate of Appropriateness and some design guidelines are not as strict as in a historic district. Generally, design guideline categories in historic and conservation districts include the following: (1) demolition; (2) renovating items such as awnings, canopies, doors, porches, roofs and roof elements, trim and ornamentation, windows and window openings; new building requirements and (3) new construction including building heights, setbacks, outlines, orientation, spacing, style and design, parking lots, signage, foundation, materials, etcetera.

Generally, Zoning and Land Use Recommendations as above restrict a homeowner’s property rights and impair a property owner’s economic freedom to use their property in a manner consistent with existing law, code and regulation and naturally raises fundamental questions:

Should we be concerned?

Yes and no.

Completing the floodwall and levee project may trigger a wave of development and redevelopment in Warfleigh. Some neighbors may find certain development and redevelopment projects desirable. Others may find the same redevelopment projects undesirable.  Nevertheless, in both cases Warfleigh residents have the opportunity to either oppose or support development and redevelopment projects by participating in the public hearing and comment process provided by current law, code and regulation.

More fundamentally, the WNA’s long standing lack of transparency is an issue it must address. Generally, any time the WNA meets to discuss public affairs and policy issues that affect Warfleigh residents – and especially their property rights – at a minimum it must widely notice such meetings, make agendas available for such meetings and provide minutes for such meetings.  The WNA’s willingness to meet and discuss such matters without notice, agenda and minutes is both alarming and chilling.  The WNA suggests it should be excused or forgiven for this lack of transparency because it is fledgling volunteer organization that struggles with resources. And indeed that is true. Nevertheless, if the WNA cannot even fulfill basic functions regarding transparency and openness because it is a fledgling, volunteer organization, then the WNA certainly should not volunteer to act on my behalf (and without my notice) on a controversial public policy proposal that would restrict property rights.

Alternatively, the WNA’s inability to perform basic functions also suggests this initiative likely may fail.  The initiative requires strong transparency, a proposed methodology to seek and measure support, outreach, educational workshops, cataloguing and describing Warfleigh neighborhood assets and a statement of their significance, and the development of land use, zoning and design guidelines, among others.  If the WNA struggles to maintain a website and mailing list and post meetings notices, agendas, and minutes, then it may be likely it does not have the capacity to complete the tasks highlighted above.

Is there an easier, less controversial path forward?

Indeed.  The WNA should continue to build its capacity and form a “land use committee.” This committee would familiarize itself with all pertinent zoning and land use regulation including the Envision Broad Ripple Plan.  Then, on a case-by-case basis, stakeholders affected by development or redevelopment could ask the land use committee for guidance and support.  This support could include filing written comments and participating in public hearings.  Then, over time, if the committee gains stature and respect, it may be a vehicle through which individuals share development and redevelopment plans in advance, seeking comment, guidance and feedback.

Thanks all. Again, I share this note because otherwise many of you might not know of developments that may affect your rights, liberty, and pursuit of economic freedom (America the Beautiful plays in the background!)  Please reach out with any questions, comments, and concerns.  I would LOVE to hear what you think as I continue neighborhood advocacy.

Jim Polito

Winter 2021 Update

Hi all,

I hope this note finds you well.

Things seem to be moving a bit slowly with not too much new progress to report.

The Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project consists of three primary phases:

3A: From Kessler Boulevard to College Avenue,
3C: From College Avenue to approximately behind McDonald’s, and
3B: From Kessler Boulevard to Butler University.

The 3B phase consists of three segments (primarily for funding purposes):
3B(1): From Kessler Boulevard to the north edge of the Riviera property,
3B(2): From the north edge of the Riviera property to the water supply canal and flood gates, and
3B(3) From the water supply canal and flood gates to Butler University

Section 3B(1) is under City control.  The City has received a turnover letter from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) placing Sections 3A and 3C of the project under City control. The Corps currently is preparing the paperwork necessary to transfer to the City control of section 3B(2).

Work remaining on Section 3B(3) includes placing additional rebar steel in the roadway at 52nd street to increase structural integrity along the foundation of the flood wall crossing there, and testing for proper operation the passive, folding floodwall sections within Section 3B(3).  The Corps now works to develop a bid package soliciting proposals to complete this work.

Critical project steps remaining include completing the work above and completing for submission to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) by the Corps’ Levee Safety Section the final project Certification Report. The City’s project manager expects the above work to be completed in four (4) to six (6) months with final accreditation to occur within a neighborhood surrounding late 2021.  Again, the project manager indicates accreditation likely is a matter of when, and not if.

Generally, certification by the Corps and final FEMA accreditation of the project requires:

(1) Demonstration the project will not increase flood elevations along the project area and upstream. This requires computer modelling, the parameters of which must be agreed upon by both the Corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”). This work substantially is complete and under review by FEMA.

(2) A statement by the Corps to FEMA that the project meets all standards set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) required for accreditation.

Thanks, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Polito

Fall 2020 Update

The Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project consists of three primary phases:

3A: From Kessler Boulevard to College Avenue,
3C: From College Avenue to approximately behind McDonald’s, and
3B: From Kessler Boulevard to Butler University.

The 3B phase consists of three segments (primarily for funding purposes):

3B(1): From Kessler Boulevard to the north edge of the Riviera property,
3B(2): From the north edge of the Riviera property to the water supply canal and flood gates, and
3B(3) From the water supply canal and flood gates to Butler University

Section 3B(1) of the project currently is under City control.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) hopes to pass control of all sections north of Kessler Boulevard (3A, 3B(1), 3C) to the City by the end of the year. A few maintenance items on these segments have recently been completed and a few maintenance items remain. This includes such things as providing topsoil in certain areas, grading and seeding the river side of the floodwall, removing burrowing animals from the river side of the floodwall, and completing maintenance to floods gates along 67th Street in Broad Ripple. Once the Corps turns control of these segments and phases to the City, the City will fund ongoing maintenance and operations using tax revenue collected from the Flood Control Improvement District.

Similar maintenance items remain for the 3B(2) and 3B(3) project phases. Additional items include replacing and securing stolen structures along the floodwall and placing additional rebar steel in the roadway at 52nd street to increase structural integrity there along the foundation of the flood wall crossing. Excavation and work on the project should commence sometime in the near future.

Generally, certification by the Corps and final FEMA accreditation of the project requires:

(1) Demonstration the project will not increase flood elevations along the project area and upstream. This requires computer modelling, the parameters of which must be agreed upon by both the Corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”). This work substantially is complete and under review by FEMA.

(2) A statement by the Corps to FEMA that the project meets all standards set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) required for accreditation.

The City’s project manager indicates the Corps remains committed to completing the project, turning over the project to the City and final project accreditation. The project manager cannot provide an exact timeline but expects the Corps to turn over Phases 3B(2) and 3B(3) of the project to the City somewhere in the neighborhood of late first quarter to early second quarter 2021. Similarly, there is no definitive timeline for project accreditation, but the project manager remains hopeful that accreditation will occur mid to late 2021– though he did note that accreditation is a matter of when, and not if.

June 2020 Update

The Department of Public Works (“DPW”) project manager for the Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project indicates he is not aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the timeline for accreditation and certification of the project.  While both DPW and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) staff were and continue to be displaced from their offices since the onset of the pandemic, coordination of work continues. DPW continues to express project completion and final submission to FEMA for accreditation will occur by spring 2021.  Remaining work largely consists of closing some “punch list items” near the Riviera Club. This includes items such as final certification of sluice gate infrastructure including such things as access ladders and closure structure protection (sluice gate infrastructure works to prevent backwater flow of flood waters into the sewer system during extreme flood events).  The Corps also is reviewing areas along the Riverview Drive/Riviera segment of the levee for proper drainage during rainfall events. For example, the DPW project manager notes the city’s Stormwater Operations Division located and removed obstructions (e.g., sediments and woody debris) from the stormwater system leading up to the Warfleigh Lift Station (which pumps stormwater from the Warfleigh area into the river during times of heavy rainfall). Clearing these obstructions eliminated the flooding that occurred a bit ago along Riverview Drive after a recent heavy rainfall. Generally, the project continues to progress, the Corps continues to do due diligence and perform periodic inspections, and DPW expects we are “close” to completing the project.

March 2020 Update

The City and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”) are continuing to move to complete certification of the levee and floodwall project which is required for accreditation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”).   When USACE certifies the project, USACE essentially tells FEMA it is time and necessary to accredit the flood works structure(s) which will drive a Letter of Map Revision. The City and USACE consider project success the accreditation of the flood works project and the Letter of Map Revision. The certification process is taking longer than normally would for a few reasons: (1) the work has been completed over many years and some portions of the wall construction are now more than 15 years old, (2) USACE personnel involved in some of the earliest construction are gone, retired or moved on, and (3) current USACE levee safety staff, now being responsible in an “engineer of record” situation, are being extremely responsible and are assuring everything about the structure is and remains within standard – USACE staff are crawling all over and into the structure to assure it will work and will serve its intended purpose. Based on this, and the industry standard for this kind of process, the City has received estimates for completed accreditation in the area of, or around, spring 2021.  This will ensure each review team has the time it needs to ensure a quality result. The City indicates it will seek to pass along any additional information it may receive from the federal agencies regarding updates or delays to the project timeline.

November 2019 Project Update

Project Completion.

The project substantially is complete and only minor work remains. This work includes things such as the startup of mechanicals such as the interior drainage pump station and installing handrails along some sections of the floodwall along Westfield Boulevard where the floodwall is low (to prevent tripping or falling over the levee/floodwall). The City expects the project to be turned over to the City by the end of the year, or early 2020 at the latest, and to receive ownership of the project (from the Army Corps of Engineers) at that time.

 

Certification and Accreditation.

The City of Indianapolis, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Division of Water) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers continue to coordinate activities for final presentation to FEMA. The levee and floodwall project manager indicates this process is going well – all parties are working together collaboratively and collegially – and that he is not at all concerned or alarmed by any details currently related to the certification and accreditation process. Current work includes determining where to draw the floodway line. Establishing the floodway (and floodway line) is important and determines, for example, where development may and may not occur, or what type of development can be completed. Current efforts seek to draw the floodway line along the line of the levee and floodwall. This can free land-side areas from many development restrictions. Future work includes items such as redrawing flood plain maps, publishing proposed flood plain maps, and publishing for public notice proposed changes to flood plain maps. The certification and accreditation process expects to conclude within the next 12-months.

August 2019 Project Update

Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project – August 2019 Update

Project Completion.

The project contractor initially estimated end-of-July 2019 for completing heavy construction activities.  The project contractor now estimates an end-of-August completion date for heavy construction activities due to wet-weather delays in May and June.  The project contractor estimates additional work on finishing details not related to the overall operation of the levee and floodwall will be completed by early October, which is the date their contract with the Corps of Engineers ends. The delay in completing this work results from decisions between the contractor and the Corps of Engineers regarding the finishing details.  The floodgate crossing the Central Canal is completed, working and tested. A second contractor that completed work on the earthen levee behind the Riviera Club will return to extend the earthen levee from where it now terminates behind the Riviera Club to its ultimate termination point at the west end of the canal flood gate.  

Certification and Accreditation.

The City of Indianapolis, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the United States Army Corps of Engineers continues to coordinate activities for final presentation to FEMA.  Recent activity focuses on how to “model the river” based on “coordinated flow discharges.”  That is, the City, DNR and USACE must reach a common understanding and agreement of how to model: (1) flows coming down the river from upstream areas in a flood event, and (2) flows entering the river from within the project area during a flood event.  The levee and floodwall project manager indicates this process is going well and that he is not at all concerned or alarmed by any details currently related to the certification and accreditation process.

June 2019 Project Update

Hello all,
I had the opportunity to speak yesterday (6/7/19) with Mike Massonne, DPW project manager of the levee and floodwall project.  Mike indicated construction is still on track to wrap up in mid- to late July.  The project when completed will provide protection against a 300-year event, or a storm that has a one-third of one percent (0.0033) probability of occurring in any given year.
The Corps continues to maintain the project until such time as it completes construction and passes control of the project to the City.  Colonel Gant of the Corps toured the project last Tuesday (6/4/19) and favorably reviewed the project.  The Colonel “quizzed” Corps staff, making sure the project is on track to finish up as scheduled.  Minor ongoing maintenance items include filling animal burrows, removing fallen trees and mowing.
Mike also indicated he has been on two phone calls between FEMA and the Corps related to the certification and accreditation process.  Most of the discussion between FEMA and the Corps focused on issues related to modelling the river and flood plain both pre- and post- project completion.  Mike indicated the conversations between the two agencies seem to be going very well and that he doesn’t see any problems going forward.
Mike indicated he believes the original design parameters remain resilient and anticipates certification and accreditation 12 months after the close of construction.
Jim Polito

February 2019 – Project Update

Michael Massonne, Department of Public Works Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project Manager, indicates levee and floodwall construction should be completed by spring 2019, with levee certification and accreditation “hopefully” completed by spring 2020.

Levee Certification vs. Accreditation 

What is Levee Certification? Levee certification is the process that deals specifically with the design and physical condition of the levee and is the responsibility of the levee owner or community in charge of the levee’s operations and maintenance.  Certification must be completed for the levee to be eligible for accreditation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Certification consists of documentation, signed and sealed by a registered Professional Engineer, as defined in Chapter 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR), Section 65.2.  This documentation must state the following:

– The levee meets the requirements of 44 CFR, Section 65.10.

– The data is accurate to the best of the certifier’s knowledge, and

– The analyses are performed correctly and in accordance with sound engineering practices.

This documentation is provided to FEMA to demonstrate that a registered Professional Engineer certified the levee and meets the specific criteria and standards to provide risk reduction from at least the one-percent-annual-chance flood. Once the levee meets the other requirements of 44 CFR 65.10, FEMA can accredit the levee and show the area behind it as being a moderate-risk area on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). If a community or levee owner wants the area behind a levee to be shown as reducing risk from the one-percent-annual-chance flood, they must first complete the process for having the levee certified.

How is a Levee Certified? To certify a levee, the community or levee owner must work with a licensed engineer or a Federal agency responsible for levee design to develop and certify documentation that the levee meets design construction standards for at least the one-percent-annual-chance flood. Levee certification does not warrant or guarantee performance, and it is the responsibility of the levee owner to ensure the levee is being maintained and operated properly.  

What is Accreditation? A levee cannot be accredited until the certification process is completed.  FEMA accredits a levee as providing adequate risk reduction on the FIRM if the certification and adopted operation and maintenance plan provided by the levee owner are confirmed to be adequate. An operations and maintenance plan specifies key operating parameters and limits, maintenance procedures and schedules, and documentation methods.  FEMA’s accreditation is not a health and safety standard – it only affects insurance and building requirements. An area impacted by an accredited levee is shown as a moderate-risk area and is labeled Zone X (shaded) on a FIRM. In this case, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) floodplain management regulations do not have a mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement.  However, FEMA recommends the purchase of flood insurance due to the risk of flooding from potential levee failure or overtopping. If the levee is not accredited, the area will be mapped as a high-risk area, known as a Special Flood Hazard Area, or SFHA.  In this case, the NFIP floodplain management regulations must be enforced and the federal mandatory purchase of flood insurance applies.

 Source: https://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/Portals/58/docs/LSAC/LeveeCertification.pdf

2017 Project Updates

Source: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPW/RebuildIndy/Projects/Pages/IndianapolisNorthLeveeProject.aspx

Phase 3A and 3C – Vegetation Management

This project was awarded to a contractor in January 2017. Vegetation clearing is expected to begin in late February 2017, lasting approximately two weeks. Grading and staking activities are expected for May or June as scheduling allows. Canoe access point improvements will complete this portion of the project. All work is expected to be complete by late summer 2017.  Click herefor a copy of the notification sent to residents near the project area.

Phase 3B2 – Riviera Club Earthen Levee:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the project to the contractor. Work will begin in February 2017, starting with limited vegetation clearing. Riviera Club representatives are regularly involved in the coordination meetings related to constructing this phase of the levee. Construction is expected to be complete in 2018.

Phase 3B3 – Westfield Boulevard:

View the fact sheet here. In February 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Indiana State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation  signed a Memorandum of Agreement to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The MOA has informed the design of Phase 3B3, recognizing that it will affect both Holcomb Gardens and the Indianapolis Central Canal, both of which are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The MOA specifies how the project will minimize or mitigate its effect on the historic area. Construction of the project will avoid or minimize the destruction of mature trees along the project, and grasses will be planted on both sides of the floodwall following its construction. Pedestrian connectivity and accessibility will be maintained along the levee by the construction of both a series of pedestrian openings along the length of the wall; and a multi-use path, constructed along Westfield Boulevard between Butler University’s Holcomb Gardens and the pedestrian bridge on Illinois Street. The visual impact of the northernmost portion of the floodwall will be minimized through reducing the height of the wall, either by the use of temporary panels that could be installed during flood events, or by a passive floodwall system which could be stowed underground. The floodwall will also display a pattern and color scheme appropriate to the surrounding natural environment, so as to limit its visual impact.

Continued Coordination with the Town of Rocky Ripple:

In February 2017, the City of Indianapolis announced that it would commit up to $10M over 5 years to local flood damage reduction opportunities, specifically for the protection of the Town of Rocky Ripple and Butler University. This project would be separate from, but in coordination with the Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project. The City hopes that this local funding might be used to leverage state funding opportunities for a local flood damage reduction project.

AECOM Phase 3B-3 Alignment Study: Rocky Ripple Area

In February 2017, the City of Indianapolis published a study prepared by AECOM regarding the technical basis for the selection of the Westfield Boulevard alignment for Phase 3B-3. The study includes an assessment of the range of options related to flood protection for the Town of Rocky Ripple.  The study is available here.

Plus some 2016 Project updates …

Phase 3A and 3C – Vegetation Management

In August 2016, an agreement was reached between the City of Indianapolis DPW, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Friends of the White River defining the conditions of a permit allowing vegetation management activities to be carried out in Phases 3A and 3C. Improvements will allow access for maintenance and inspection, prevent animals and plants from destabilizing the levee foundation. The project will include some tree and root clearing, the regrading of the levee slope, the removal of asphalt rubble and the placement of limestone riprap where erosion might otherwise occur. This work is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to certify the project, allowing FEMA to accredit the entire Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction project. In addition, improvements are planned for the canoe access point west of the Monon pedestrian bridge, and new canoe access point is planned just south of Kessler Boulevard.

Phase 3B2 Riviera Club Earthen Levee:

In January 2016, the City made a property acquisition offer to the Riviera Club for the land required to construct Phase 3B2. An offer was formally accepted in June of 2016, and the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the project to contractor bids in September 2016. Work will begin in 2017.

Phase 3B3 – Westfield Boulevard

With the Westfield Boulevard alignment officially selected for this section of the levee, design conversations included elements required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified, informed and invited local stakeholders to participate in the discussion and formulation of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to mitigate the visual and physical impacts of the proposed Phase 3B3 alignment.  The effort culminated in a draft MOA in November 2016.

Continued Coordination with the Town of Rocky Ripple:

In March 2016, the City met with the Town of Rocky Ripple Board members to further discuss local flood damage reduction opportunities. The conversation continued through the summer of 2016 as a Memorandum of Agreement was drafted to further define how the City and Town might accomplish their mutual goals. In late August, the MOA was signed by representatives of Indy DPW and the Town of Rocky Ripple, solidifying a relationship of continued coordination on matters related to water quality, flood protection, erosion control and stormwater management. The City and Town agreed to coordinate on public outreach; planning improvements; obtaining easements, permits and rights of entry; and the completion of activities as a part of the Marion County Stormwater Management District. In the fall of 2016, with the approval of the Town of Rocky Ripple, the City began limited vegetation management work on the public land on the east bank of the West Fork of the White River. The City worked to clear hazardous brush and other vegetation determined to be threatening to the stability of the east river bank. The City looks to continue this and other Town-coordinated activities in 2017.