At its Jan. 10 meeting, Humble City Council approved an ordinance easing building regulations for commercial development within the city’s flood plains.

With the new ordinance passing, developers can now build at 2 feet above the 100-year flood plain elevation. Previously, developers had to meet more stringent standards and build at 2 feet above the 500-year flood plain.

The previous ordinance requiring developers to build at 2 feet above the 500-year flood plain was approved by Humble City Council in February 2018 following the flooding that took place during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe said.

“We are coming back now as we had a year to look at it and decompress and see what’s going on in the post-Harvey world, and what we’ve come up with is that it’s probably more prudent to allow the nonresidential, commercial construction to go back to being allowed to develop just at the 100-year floodplain elevation,” Stuebe said.

In order to meet the requirement of building above a flood plain, developers layer dirt, sand or rock and begin construction on top of the material. Stuebe said the regulations the city approved in February 2018 rendered a lot of sites that have been planned for years as not developable because of the amount of material developers would have to use to meet the required elevation.

“There was never really any pushback as far as development goes, but as [developers] started coming in it was more of, ‘How are we going to do this?’” Stuebe said.

The 100- and 500-year flood plains include areas that statistically should flood once every 100 or 500 years. However, following the widespread flooding that took place during Harvey, local officials are questioning the accuracy of the existing flood plain maps. The Harris County Flood Control District received a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in late September to begin remapping flood plains throughout the county.

Although the city is reverting back to basing commercial development on the 100-year flood plain, the new ordinance is more stringent than the regulations that were in place prior to February 2018 when commercial development could begin at 1 foot above the 100-year flood plain elevation.

Additionally, the city left residential development regulations in place, so homes must still be built at 2 feet above the 500-year flood plain, Stuebe said.

“We didn’t make the change for residential [development] because we don’t want homes flooding,” Stuebe said.